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.
She 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.
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.
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.
The University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) held its third annual Research Symposium on Monday, April 30 from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. in an Ag Day tent outside of Townsend Hall.
This year’s symposium included 76 poster presentations—up from 50 in 2017—from undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and CANR staff members and was split up into five areas of unique research strengths for the college:
One Health—intersections among animal, plant, human and ecosystem health;
Climate Change—impacts, mitigation and adaptation;
Genetics and genomics for plant, animal and ecosystem improvement;
Human Dimensions of food, agriculture and natural resources; and
Sustainable food systems, landscapes and ecosystems
Eric Wommack, deputy dean and associate dean for research and graduate education at CANR, said that this year’s symposium was a great success.
“We made a big jump this year in presentations from 44 in 2016, to 50 in 2017, to 76 today. The breadth and impact of the work presented was impressive. It clearly demonstrates the global impact of the College’s research enterprise and that we are succeeding in delivering on UD’s land grant mission to serve the public good through scientific research,” said Wommack.
Winners were announced in PhD, MS, Undergraduate and Post-doc categories as well as top poster winners in each of the five CANR unique research strength areas.
The PhD winners included:
Adam Stager: Phenotyping on the move: Georeferenced imaging and sensing in UD’s outdoor plant science laboratories for advances in agriculture; and
Alma Vazquez-Lule: Carbon fluxes and phenology changes in a Delaware tidal salt marsh
The MS winners included:
Ying Peng: Evaluation of estrogenic activity of the novel Bisphenol-A alternatives by in-vitro bioassays; and
Susan Gachara: Synthetic biology for plant viral diagnostics: Application to Maize Lethal Necrosis disease
The Undergraduate winner was Dominique Lester: To bean or not to bean: Downy Mildew is the question.
The Post-doc winner was Matt Limmer: Quantitative synchrotron x-ray fluorescence for trace metal(loid) distribution in rice grains.
The five unique strength winners included:
Justin Blair: Capture mechanisms of Duddingtonia flagrans on cyathostomin larvae; in the unique strength group: “One Health” – intersections among animal, plant, human and ecosystem health;
Branimir Trifunovic: Greenhouse gas dynamics in a salt marsh creek; in the unique strength group: Climate Change – impacts, mitigation and adaptation;
Imogene Cancellare: Snow leopard genetics across high Asia; in the unique strength group: Genetics and genomics for plant, animal and ecosystem improvement;
Sean Ellis: A neuroeconomic investigation of disgust in food purchasing decisions; in the unique strength group: Human Dimensions of food, agriculture and natural resources; and
Hannah Clipp: Food availability determines how migrating birds use stopover sites; in the unique strength group: Sustainable food systems, landscapes and ecosystems
The UDairy Creamery, a campus and community staple centered around educational opportunities and a quality, local product, is also a quite a fun place to work.
Those who ever thought about working at the Creamery are in luck as the UDairy Creamery is currently hiring for both its Newark and Wilmington locations, and is looking for applicants for server positions as well as its three annual internships in Newark.
The Creamery is looking for University of Delaware students with bright personalities, who love helping people, and of course love the Creamery.
Servers get to serve ice cream to customers and also make the ice cream during production shifts. Additional perks include getting to serve ice cream at fun local events like UD Basketball games or taking the Moo Mobile to different, nearby JP Morgan Chase locations.
In addition to the server role, the Creamery offers three annual internship positions for a more in-depth, professional learning experience.
The intern roles for the 2018-2019 school year are Human Resources, Food Science, and Social Media and Marketing. These interns work together throughout the year on new flavors, specials, events, and promotional strategies to help the Creamery be the most successful it can be.
Dana Friedrich, a senior marketing major who served this year as the Social Media and Marketing intern at the Creamery, said that her favorite part of the internship was the ability to “be creative every single day and implement my own ideas to better the Creamery’s presence in the community. It’s a great way to improve your marketing and communications skills, and you have the ability to really choose which skills you want to work on, all while taking pictures of ice cream.”
Andrea Schaaf, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and current Assistant Manager intern, said that her favorite part of the internship was “being a part of such an awesome team and having such supportive mentors who were more than willing to teach me anything I was interested in. The main reasons I would recommend this internship are the amazing team members, the flexible and understanding managers, and all of the great learning opportunities”
New this year to the internship program will be a summer-only Social Media and Marketing internship. Even when the Blue Hens are away for the summer, the Creamery is still in full swing and needs to keep up to date with social media and promotion.
Any Blue Hens who will be around campus for the summer of 2018 and are interested in gaining some internship experience, should apply. The internship will focus mainly on keeping social media channels updated and collaborating with managers on summer specials and promotional ideas, while also working in the store.
Consider applying to work at the UDairy Creamery, and you might just get to join the Moo Crew.
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.
“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.
University of Delaware student Cate Medlock had always dreamed of seeing the Amazon River, so when the opportunity arose for her to join thirteen other students and professor Sue Barton on a study abroad excursion over winter session, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I wanted to go somewhere pretty special and this program was the perfect blend of nature, art and culture so it was exactly what I wanted,” said Medlock, a senior environmental science major.
Barton, professor and Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the study abroad presents two courses—Field Sketching of Landscape Subjects and Plants and Human Culture, which is a course she teaches each fall.
The students visited the Amazon for the first week of their time in Brazil and then travelled to Rio de Janeiro where they were able to visit the home and gardens of artist Roberto Burle Marx and look at works by Marx and other Brazilian landscape architects and artists.
During their time on the Amazon, the students stayed in the floating Uacari Lodge in the Mamiraua Reserve, which afforded them the opportunity to encounter the plants and animals of the Amazon—such as pink river dolphins and caimans—close up.
“It’s pretty crazy to tell people that you were staying on a floating lodge in the middle of the river, hanging out on a hammock sketching and seeing pink river dolphins,” Medlock said.
In Rio de Janeiro, the students visited several gardens designed by Burle Marx, the landscape architect credited with beginning the native plant movement in landscape architecture. In addition to Burle Marx’s home, the students visited a rooftop garden, Flamingo Park and Tacaruna, a restored Burle Marx garden. Students also enjoyed Inhotim, a public Garden featuring modern art in galleries and landscape settings.
Many of the Brazilian artists the students researched for a study abroad presentation had their art displayed throughout the Garden.
“At least six students found their artists either at Inhotim or in Rio,” said Barton. “One of them, Eduardo Kobra, did a huge mural on a wall that was done for the Olympics. As soon as the students saw the pieces, they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s my artist.’ It was very cool and was a really nice connection.”
For their final project as part of the study abroad, the students had to sketch a montage of five images from their time in Brazil. These montages are now on display in the hallways of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.
Medlock said that even though she didn’t have any previous artistic experience, it was a great opportunity to learn and travel, and that her sketchbook is something she will cherish forever.
“You come back with this sketch book full of some really bizarre objects that you see but you’re staring at them for a long while and it’s an intimate knowledge of this one area. I can still picture myself in that one spot where I was sitting sketching that object and there’s notes about it and I’m journaling about things I saw or how I was feeling at the same time,” said Medlock. “It’s almost a little time capsule that I get to look back and see who I was at that time and what I was feeling and what I was thinking.”
The UDairy Creamery Market in Wilmington welcomed a mural to its wall this past November and guests are now greeted with a unique and charming depiction of the University of Delaware’s Holstein cows enjoying some ice cream.
Being that the Creamery’s slogan is “from the cow to the cone,” the piece encapsulates the entire production process starting with the cows and ending with the delicious product, UDairy ice cream, which is also made in house at the Market Street location.
The mural was illustrated by UD’s Madison Bacon, a senior in the art department, who has a strong background doing work in animation and illustration.
“When I was designing it, I tried to think of the history of UDairy and, obviously, owning our own cows [at UD] is a big deal so I wanted them to be a centerpiece,” Bacon said. “I also wanted to include the student involvement working on the farm and in the store and tie it all together by incorporating Wilmington through the city depicted in the background. Overall, I think it captures the history and evolution of UDairy.”
Melinda Shaw, director of creamery operations, said the mural shows the creamery mission in a creative way.
“Wilmington has such a large creative district, so to show off student talent, we can use the market as a resource to do so,” Shaw said. “It was a really fun project because we were in such a fun environment and we got to see so many interesting drafts and iterations as it came together.”
LeeAnne Ahamad, the UDairy creamery market manager, said that the mural prompts guests to pause, look and help promote the creamery with their own photography.
It is, she said, “definitely a show stopper. As guests come in, especially those who have visited before, we see them stop and look at it. It has also become a popular ‘photo op stop’ where guests snap pictures with their ice cream in front of the mural, particularly with the cows.”
Work of this scale is not new to Bacon, but this process was new for her in some ways.
“I’ve done big paintings before, but this time I wasn’t doing a big painting on a wall, I created a smaller illustration that would then be blown up into a big decal,” said Bacon.
This opportunity also gave her additional experience working with clients, bringing them thumbnails and managing expectations, and she got to work with her professors to learn how to draft a contract for her work.
The mural has all of the UDairy Creamery’s staples tied in to one – the cow to cone ideology, fusing the farm aspects of ice cream production, the city aspects of the Market’s location and creative district, and the student involvement throughout.
The UDairy Creamery Market is located at 815 N. Market St. in Wilmington and open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.
To see more of Bacon’s work, view her online portfolio at:
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.
One 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.”
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.
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
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.
The 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.
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.
Rough is the word Christian Wills chose to describe his childhood. As a kid, he said, he was awkward. He felt he didn’t have a voice and was a victim of choices he had no control over. Once he discovered his love for rap and poetry, he finally found a way to communicate and bring others together.
Years later, these same passions are the driving force behind the Poetry Slam and Open Mic Nights Wills created at the University of Delaware’s UDairy Creamery Market in Wilmington, where he works. Once a month, the narrow entrance of the ice cream shop is transformed into a mini theatre where anyone can come up and share his or her talents.
Wills’ goal is to create an atmosphere where people can get anything off their chest — the same opportunity poetry and rap provided him.
“It was my one way of communicating with people and just showing that I have a voice and I have something to say,” said Wills. “I believe everyone should have a chance to hear it and open mic is a perfect way of relaying what you have stuck in your heart that you just want to get to the world.”
An undeclared UD sophomore, Wills is part of the Associate in Arts program. He’s considering majors in English or visual communications and has yet to settle on a career path. In addition to songwriter and lyricist, Wills said he might follow in his parents’ footsteps and become a teacher.
The poetry nights started in October. Store manager LeeAnne Ahamad first approached Wills with the idea and asked if he would be interested in putting it together. She was aware of his interest after Wills won a poetry contest for the store’s grand opening last May.
“Christian was always just passionate about everything that he does,” Ahamad said. “I had met one of his professors as well who spoke highly of him.”
She also said this was an opportunity to fulfill one of the store’s goals.
“One of our goals is to really engage with the community,” Ahamad said. “Not only to let people know that UD is there in Wilmington, but also to continue building those relationships beyond campus.”
On a recent rainy Sunday afternoon in February, the Wilmington UDairy location quickly filled with people waiting for the event to begin. The crowd was a mix of Wills’ friends, family, classmates and others from the community. Wills stood in front of the gathered crowd, thanked them for attending and kicked off the show by reading his poem titled Community Building.
“Look around. Look at how beautiful it is. The progress around the stress that we create. I must confess that I’m truly blessed within my space,” Wills began.
As he read, a wave of confidence took over his body. He stood taller and his normally soft voice projected. His words flowed effortlessly. Other people have noticed, including his poetry professor, David Teague.
“I don’t have anything to teach that guy,” Teague said. “I sort of help him find the pieces to organize — you know what professors do — and he did the rest.”
Teague said he was genuinely surprised the first time he heard Wills’ work. For the first month and a half, Wills did not speak in his class. Then one day he did.
The title of his poem is no coincidence. Wills talks a lot about community building. Now 19, Wills spent the better part of his life in Maryland, and moved to Wilmington right before his senior year of high school. Over those three years, he has made an effort to get to know many of the people around him and connect others where he can. Many of those present at the poetry event share this objective of connecting and building up Wilmington.
“We’ve struggled for years and years to build community,” Teague said. He explained that for many there’s a frustration with Wilmington’s reputation with violence, which is not all the city is about.
“This is a city with a lot of challenges,” Teague said. “Downtown was struggling for years, but I think it’s probably doing better than it’s done since I’ve been here and there’s a lot of energy. There’s a lot of support.”
That night, roughly a dozen people performed including Wills’ mother. While most read poetry, a couple decided to sing. Given the diverse range of speakers — young, older, different races and experience levels — an unexpected focus emerged on Black History Month.
Wills expectations for each night are high. While each iteration has had its challenges, he admits each time it gets better.
One of Wills’ favorite poems is To the Notebook Kid, by Eve L. Ewing. He once performed it at a Poetry Out Loud competition. The first stanza reads:
yo chocolate milk for breakfast kid.
one leg of your sweatpants rolled up
scrounging at the bottom of your mama’s purse
for bus fare and gum
pen broke and you got ink on your thumb kid
It goes on to describe a mostly average kid with big dreams who finds solace from his life in the pages of his notebook. But he hides it from the world. Wills described it as powerful.
“I like the word choices in it. I like how it’s not very traditional,” Wills said. “It can be placed in many different ways, it can mean many different things.”
He knows the poem by heart.
“In a way I kind of did that with my poetry,” Wills said. “Not a lot of people really knew about it until later on.”
However rough Wills’ childhood, the arts have been a constant part of his life. His mother sparked his love of poetry by enrolling him in classes as a kid.
“My mom was a big influence in my life, as you can tell,” said Wills, whose mother, Theresa, read her original poetry at the open mic event. “She also pushed me to do poetry. She’s like, ‘My son is an amazing poet and amazing songwriter.’ So that also pushed me.”
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article by Adam Thomas
Photos by Glenn Cook/Entomological Society of America
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.
These 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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
Students in the University of Delaware’s Landscape Architecture program displayed their breadth of work from Saturday, November 4 through Saturday, November 11 in the West Lounge of the Perkins Student Center.
The display was arranged in such a way that visitors could see the scope of the students’ work beginning with the introductory level courses all the way up through the senior capstone course in order to show the students’ progression over the four-year period of the program.
“I’m really proud of the work that was on display,” said Jules Bruck, associate professor of landscape design and director of the program. “I think it’s really good work and you can see the difference between the freshman studio work and the senior studio work and everything in between. If you could find somebody’s work from the 200-level course and then find that same student’s work from the 400-level course, you would definitely see growth.”
Emma Ruggiero, a senior, did an independent study to get the display ready.
Amanda Binning, a junior, Carin Prechtl, a senior, and Austin Virdin, a senior, also did a lot of work on the display.
Information about the two student clubs affiliated with the Landscape Architecture program, the DeLA Club, which is focused on all aspects of landscape architecture, and the Design and Articulture Club (DART) was also available to exhibit visitors.
In addition, work from a study abroad program to Brazil which was led by Sue Barton, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, was also on display.
The week culminated with a reception on Wednesday evening where friends and family members could view the students’ work. The reception was also held to celebrate the completion of the pre-candidacy phase of the Landscape Architecture program’s bid to become an accredited program.
At the reception, Virdin received the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) Engaged Excellence award for the landscape architecture student who maximizes the success of self and others by positive contributions to the community.
Bruck said that the Landscape Architecture program will also have a miniature Philadelphia flower show display up in the Perkins Student Center over Winter Session and said that the venue is a great opportunity to show the campus community all that they have to offer.
“I think it’s nice for both the students and potential students to know that this exists on campus. It’s a really nice way for us to share all the hard work that the students do. Our major is not easy. The students are in the studio half the night some nights and they work really hard and I think it’s nice to offer an opportunity to show off the fruits of their labor,” said Bruck.
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.
“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
Professors from the University of Delaware’s Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA) program took six of the students newer to the major on a two-day tour of Delaware, Friday, August 25 and Saturday, August 26, looking at different landscapes throughout the first state.
The program was funded by UD’s Sustainable Coastal Communities (SCC) Initiative headed by Ed Lewandowski, the acting director for Delaware Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Service.
Joining the students on the trip were Sue Barton, professor and extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC), Jules Bruck, associate professor and director of landscape architecture, Anna Wik, assistant professor in PLSC and a registered landscape architect, and Tara Trammell, the John Bartram Assistant Professor of Urban Forestry.
The professors had Margaret Heffernan, a senior landscape architecture major and an art minor, and Olivia Kirkpatrick, a senior majoring in landscape architecture with minors in horticulture and art, on board for the program as well to provide leadership for the newer students.
The program started out in Newark then moved south with the students visiting Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, the UD Virden Center and then Cape Henlopen where they took a transect across the dunes to see how to measure and look at the topography of the dunes.
“We rented bikes so we could bike into Cape Henlopen park and that gave us a different appreciation for the landscape than just driving would have,” said Barton.
The students also went to Sea Colony and studied one of Barton’s projects that involved a collaboration with the Center for Inland Bays and the Delaware Department of Transportation.
“About five years ago, the ditches were widened and we added plants to slow water down, to give water a chance to be taken up by plants or sink into the soil, versus just run right off into the inland bays carrying all the nutrients and pollutants with it,” said Barton.
Moving north, the group took a pontoon boat out into Trap Pond’s cypress swamp and Bruck informed them about her project in Laurel, Delaware.
The two-day journey ended in New Castle where Trammell led an exercise looking at urban trees.
“Students did sketching and participated in exercises and it was a jam packed two days. Some of the sophomores who went didn’t know other people in the program and they definitely knew each other well by the end,” said Barton. “In the future, we plan to run this for students between their freshman and sophomore years and it will be a great experience for them.”
Barton added that having some of the more experienced landscape architecture students on the trip was a beneficial component as well.
“The newer students got to know their upper classman, some of the leaders of the program. It was a great combination of comradery and environmental learning and we really hope to be able to do it again,” said Barton.
Four students from the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources began their fall semester enriched from their strategic summer internship experiences.
Mark Isaacs, Director of the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center, coordinated the internships. Isaacs hopes the offerings for internships expand and more students learn about the opportunities available.
The Carvel Center is the college’s southern agriculture experimental station and serves as the staging ground for unique summer work experiences. The 347-acre campus, which includes Sussex Cooperative Extension and Lasher Laboratory, provides an ideal venue for CANR students studying across academic disciplines.
This summer, three of the four internships were sponsored, Isaacs said, a trend he hopes will continue and grow. The Sussex County Council provided funding for two positions. In addition, Helena Chemical Company, which is headquartered in Columbia South Carolina, partnered with UD — an important bridge to new opportunities, Isaacs noted.
The internships are all unique, customized to a workplace experience that suits each student’s goals, or help to identify them.
“We try to tailor the experience,” Isaacs said. “We meet with the student, identify their interest and career path and plan accordingly. If they are uncertain, we set up a rotating schedule to assure broader exposure. All are crafted to build the student’s professional network, showcase career opportunities, and build their professional development. You can’t get that in a classroom.”
Matching the student with the opportunity is a college-wide effort, including ongoing conversations with faculty and staff who assess and recruit the students and help coordinate the summer’s agenda. In some cases, students take the initiative; in others students are recommended by faculty and staff to pursue the internship.
While academic performance is a consideration, it is not the only characteristic that makes students a good fit. A passion for learning, good communications skills, attention to detail, and a demonstrated work ethic are sought after, Isaacs said.
“We place our students in situations where they have to interact with people on a professional level in fields of study they are interested in,” Isaacs said. “They get to see firsthand the challenges and opportunities these professions deal with on a daily basis.”
Often, the internship experiences hones a student’s academic trajectory. “They discover a new aspect they hadn’t considered before,” Isaacs said. “And in some cases, what they do not want to do becomes clarified.”
Statistically, two jobs are available for every graduate with an agriculture related degree. “It is one of the most tremendously opportunistic career paths a student can have,” Isaacs said. “The chance to build contacts with professionals in these allied industries is a win-win for everyone.”
Parker O’Day, a Food and Agribusiness Marketing and Management sophomore, spent the summer as a communication intern at the Carvel Center. O’Day learned about the opportunity from Tracy Wootten, a Sussex County Extension agent working out of Carvel. Although O’Day had a retail job lined up for the summer, he jumped at the chance to work with agriculture marketing. O’Day received hands-on training in videography and editing, and produced and edited several videos for Extension’s farm succession planning, Delaware Master Gardeners, Extension videos at the Delaware State Fair, and UD’s Weed Science program.
Another comprehensive project took O’Day away from the computer and outside to visually map the Carvel Center’s research plots for a future online virtual tour. O’Day canvased and photographed these plots with a 360 degree camera. Later, he recorded interviews with Extension faculty and specialists about their specific research, overlaying the panoramas with YouTube videos, still photographs, and links to other resources. When completed, visitors to the web-based tour will have a better understanding of the important research undertaken at the Carvel campus.
“The one thing I was never exposed to and always wondered how it worked was video editing,” O’Day said. “For ag business – on the marketing side of things, this skill will be useful to future employers.”
In addition, Isaacs arranged for O’Day and another intern, Spencer Murray, to meet with Kenny Bounds, Deputy Secretary at the Delaware Department of Agriculture, who provided the interns with an overview of his department and a visit with Mid Atlantic Farm Credit.
For Laura Donahue, professional networking is a critical component in accomplishing her goal to be a large animal veterinarian. Well before high school, the pre-vet senior mapped out a plan and strategized her experiential portfolio toward that singular goal. Donahue sought diverse experiences, including traveling to Denmark to work with swine, and last summer working with sheep in Iceland. As she approached her senior year at UD, Donahue recognized the need to obtain laboratory and research experience. She reached out to Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, who encouraged Donahue to contact Mark Isaacs about openings at the Lasher Laboratory. While lab work was not a long-term goal, Donahue wanted to gain experience in a lab. As a summer resident in Delmarva, she realized that the chance to work with poultry in the heart of the industry made sense to round out her experiences.
Monday through Thursdays mornings, Donahue did “bench work” working in Lasher’s bacterial, serology and PCR labs with lab manager Kim Allen and her staff. In the afternoons, she assisted necropsy cases with Dan Bautista, Lasher’s veterinarian. On Fridays, Donahue typically worked alongside large animal veterinarians. She took full advantage working alongside the visiting veterinarians to learn their stories and make valuable contacts. Donahue places a high value on networking, acknowledging that each person she meets opens a door to a new opportunity. “I got to hear other people’s perspectives, they talk about their careers and what they’ve done – and their advice and input were invaluable,” Donahue said.
Donahue’s internship helped shape her goals to specialize as a food animal veterinarian and address issues of global food insecurity.
Colby Rash, a senior majoring in Agriculture and Natural Resources, was recommended by Isaacs to apply for a competitive internship with Helena Chemical Company, which focuses on crop protection and management. Rash was one of 15 students whittled down from a pool of more than 1,500 applicants. Rash spent the first week at Helena’s headquarters in Columbia, South Carolina receiving an overview of Helena’s portfolio and career opportunities from upper management, before continuing in their Mifflinville, Pa. location for the remainder of the summer. Rash worked closely with growers and industry representatives, troubleshooting crop production issues – everything from variety evaluation, pest management, and nutrient and fertility issues. His internship often required travel and networking with his fellow interns in Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York. Isaacs stated, “Wes Page, who came to UD campus to recruit our students, did an excellent job coordinating Colby’s summer experience.” Upon graduation, Rash has been invited to return for a second internship.
Spencer Murray, a senior majoring in Agriculture and Natural Resources and minoring in Animal Science was approached by Mark Isaacs to consider a rotating internship. “It was a perfect opportunity to get my ducks in a row and figure out what I would like to focus on,” said Murray.
Murray and Isaacs mapped out a schedule that included a broad spectrum of agriculture’s allied industries. Murray interacted with agriculture chemical companies such as Monsanto, Helena, Growmark FS, and Crop Protection Services (CPS) and observed that relationship building between the company and the farmer is essential.
Murray worked directly with Carvel’s research and extension staff learning about the poultry industry alongside Georgie Cartanza, state poultry extension agent, and observed precision irrigation technology with James Adkins, associate scientist. Murray also spent time with Barbara Scott and Carvel’s Weed Science team, and experienced the connection between extension and research.
Murray’s advice to students, “No matter what your mind is set on, if you try something new, you may figure out something different you would like to do.”
Isaacs agrees that a good internship serves many purposes, most importantly, students get snapshots into the many careers possible. “Working toward a career means strategic relationship building. It means learning to be fluid and open with career possibilities and establishing contacts with those that can advise and steer your career options. It means learning how to market yourself by exhibiting skill sets employers look for in their future employees,” Isaacs said.
“Our faculty and staff – we are in constant dialogue about our students and we want them to be successful. My colleagues recognize that a key component is work-based experience,” Isaacs said. “That’s the great thing about our college. We care about the student and placing the student in the right situation to be successful.”
Continuing 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.”
Students 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.”
To best understand landscapes and how different ecosystems interact with one another, sometimes it’s necessary to take a bird’s-eye view.
It was with that in mind that the University of Delaware’s Jeff Buler took students from his landscape ecology class up in a hot air balloon, so they could appreciate the inner workings of a landscape from the slow-moving confines of a hot air balloon basket.
“The purpose of the balloon trip was to give these students who are in the landscape ecology class a real-life landscape perspective. I thought the best way to provide that is to go up in a hot air balloon,” said Buler, associate professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology.
While there are other ways for the students to see a landscape from an aerial view — such as from a plane or via an aerial photograph or satellite imagery — Buler said that the finer details can be lost.
“When we were a mile up, you would look down and you could distinguish forest patches from agricultural fields. We could even see the Delaware Bay and the Susquehanna River and the skyline of Philadelphia from that height, so we got a really broad perspective,” said Buler. “As we came down to just maybe 100 feet above the ground, you get this sort of zooming in on the landscape as you descend, which reveals more and more detail as you come down.”
Among the interesting features the class was able to see were fields that had been plowed by tractors and those had been plowed by horses.
“Most of the farms were Amish farms that we’d fly over. We flew so low that we could actually tell they had been plowed by horses because you’d see the hoof marks in the fields, which of course you couldn’t see if you were higher up,” said Buler.
One of the things Buler wanted the students to get out of the trip was to be able to identify different landscape features, such as patches and edges and corridors, terms they talk about in class to characterize the landscape.
This being Buler’s second time taking a class up in a hot air balloon (a previous trip was made in the spring of 2014) he said that it was interesting to see how the landscape the class viewed this time differed from the landscape seen on the previous trip.
“It was a much more agricultural landscape than the other, which was more mixed and showed more of a gradient from rural to urban,” said Buler.
In the highly developed agricultural landscape, the students were able to see the connectivity of the environment, getting a nice view of natural features such as streams and riparian corridors along those streams that play an integral role in water quality within a watershed.
“Something that we talked a lot about in the course was how the water quality at one location is affected by inputs of pollution and other processes that are happening further upstream,” said Buler. “In this landscape, we were able to see streams that had nice intact riparian forest buffers but also other places where the farmers had cleared right up to the edge of the stream. It was a nice contrast to the last trip in that the students could better see how the stream networks were connected and where there were breaks in the riparian buffers that could be places where pollution could infiltrate.”
Buler said that going up in the hot air balloon reinforces lessons that the undergraduate and graduate students learn in his class, specifically about how diverse landscapes throughout space and time are of the upmost importance.
The class is also focused on managing habitat for wildlife, which has traditionally been done on a parcel by parcel basis, such as a piece of public land that is managed to create habitat for the species without consideration of how the larger landscape might affect what’s going on in that area.
“The class is designed to get students to think more broadly and recognize that the broader landscape is important. It’s important to think about how energy flows through the landscape, and to realize, especially from a wildlife perspective, that it is important to maintain connectivity among habitat patches,” said Buler. “You might be able to produce a very nice suitable habitat but you simply might not have the wildlife species there that you’re interested in because they can’t get there. There might be some barrier that prevents them from physically moving to that location. As we fragment landscapes more and more, it’s becoming a lot harder for wildlife to disperse through the landscape to be able to find suitable habitat.”
At the end of May, three undergraduate pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences students from the laboratory of Amy Biddle, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, presented research posters at the biannual Equine Science Symposium in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Justin Berg presented results from the Equine Microbiome Project, a nationwide initiative to understand factors leading to gut health in horses, and his study focused on diet. Brian Chambers detailed experiments from his senior thesis to characterize equine intestinal parasites (small strongyles) using molecular tools, and Haley Nelson shared her study of the geographic distribution of small strongyles across U.S. regions and climate zones.
Berg and Chambers were Summer Scholars in 2016, and received travel grants from the UD Undergraduate Research Program to attend this meeting. Additional support for their research was given by the Thoroughbred Education and Research Foundation. The meeting was organized by the Equine Science Society, and attracted equine researchers from across the country.
Four University of Delaware students with an interest in equine sciences spent their spring semester as interns at Fair Hill International (FHI) in nearby Maryland, learning the ins and outs of the equine industry and getting hands-on experience as they helped to put together an international equestrian event.
This internship opportunity was supported by a College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Teaching Mini-Grant awarded for equine science outreach to Amy Biddle, assistant professor of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.
Leveraging the proximity of FHI, an organization that hosts horse trials at all levels, the goal of the internship was to offer students hands-on experience in the world of competitive equine events from local starter shows to Olympic qualifying events.
Those students included Kassandra Moyer, a senior majoring in animal and food sciences and agriculture and natural resources with a minor in food and agribusiness marketing and management; Jenna Deal, a sophomore pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major with an equine science minor; Jacklyn Rind, a sophomore pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major with a minor in biological sciences; and Charlotte Cilio, a junior majoring in animal and food sciences and agriculture and natural resources.
The students said the internship program leaders at FHI did a great job of designing the first half of the internship to focus on a specific area of the equine industry for which they had an interest.
Moyer, for instance, grew up on a dairy farm and wants to get into the dairy nutrition industry after school, with a specific interest in sales.
Because of this interest, Carla Geiersbach, executive director of FHI who oversaw the students for the internship, put her in charge of selling advertising space in FHI’s horse trial program.
“I thought the sales part of it was really beneficial for me personally because now I can actually put some numbers on my resume – I’m graduating, so that’s really important,” said Moyer.
Deal is going down the veterinary road and said that she was able to get good veterinary experience through the internship.
“There was a Foxcatcher endurance race and I got to help with the vet officials and check heart rates before the horses went on to actually be inspected by the vets,” said Deal. “Later on in the day, I got to hang out with the vets and talk to them, ask them about their experiences and what they suggest for vet school in the future.
“Then throughout the competition, we got to help set up and see the mechanics that the horses have to go through and during the competition itself seeing them compete opened my eyes to what they actually go through and what I’ll be getting into.”
Deal said that she would recommend the internship to students interested in equine sciences specifically because of how the staff at FHI worked to accommodate their areas of interest.
“Just knowing that they want to work with you because that way you get the most out of it. They cycled us through to make sure that we all got to see the aspects of it but they definitely wanted it to pertain to our interests,” said Deal.
The students also helped with an eventing competition at FHI that took place over a two-week span, and which they said took up a good chunk of the internship period.
“We helped with set up, we helped walking the courses to find distances and optimum times for riders, and we helped with in-barn inspections because some of these horses are international horses that have passports and are microchipped. As such, they have to come in and be inspected by veterinarians to make sure their microchip matches their passport, make sure they have all their vaccinations and that they’re generally healthy so they can compete,” said Moyer.
As for how they all found their love for horses, each said that it was instilled at a young age.
“I was four and my mom wouldn’t let me ride until I turned five and I haven’t stopped since,” said Cilio.
Deal said that she grew up around horses in her hometown where there were horse farms everywhere and Moyer started when she was five and got involved with the United States Pony Club.
The 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.
Four University of Delaware undergraduates have spent their spring semesters on Webb Farm as independent study students, gaining valuable hands-on experience about what it’s like to work with lambs, sheep, beef cattle and horses in a real-world environment.
Under the guidance of Larry Armstrong, farm manager, students Jeff Chubbs, Hunter Harrow, Alexis Omar and Charles Scarff work different times and days of the week, learning the ins and outs of farming and discovering what aspects they like best about the job.
“This year’s independent study group is very diverse and everyone brings something new to the table. Everyone’s found their own little niche whether it’s working with the sheep and monitoring the lamb weights and health, focusing on cattle work, and we’re doing some overall pasture management,” said Armstrong. “That’s what we like about the independent study students. We want to teach them things but we want them to find their passion and we want them to say, ‘I want to learn more about this.’ A lot of times that leads the way.”
Armstrong said he is hoping the students gain executive function from their time out on the farm, learning to solve problems in a real-world environment.
“I’m available but I try to keep it independent because they’re going to get more out of it that way,” said Armstrong. “It’s very much problem-based learning. It can be as simple as how to develop a routine for feeding and there’s things that we need to do but how we get them done is open for them to figure out. That’s my favorite part about this year’s group. We’re diverse and everyone is finding their own passion and area of study.”
Harrow, a senior studying animal and food science with a minor in forensics, said her independent study focuses on sheep and calf management and added that Armstrong is great about teaching the students.
“Larry basically wants to help us learn so he’ll say ‘give this medicine, administer this shot,’ so it’s more experience for us but we’re also taking it for class credit so it kills two birds with one stone,” said Harrow.
Her favorite part is working with the lambs and the newborn calves on the farm.
“Who doesn’t love a baby animal? The fact that we get to actually raise farm animals, that they’re ours and it’s our responsibility is an incredible experience,” said Harrow, who added that it was beneficial to work directly with the animals and with record keeping to track how the animals progressed throughout the semester.
Scarff, a junior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources whose father is a cattle dealer and grew up around farm animals, said he is focused on beef cattle but has also worked with sheep when they were lambing early in the semester. He has also found a passion for the horses on the farm.
“I’m taking a couple of equine classes. My older sister rode show horses, and I think that’s why I have an interest in them. I would like to do something with them,” said Scarff.
As for the most beneficial aspect of the independent study, Scarff said that it definitely had to be the hands-on learning.
“Before the cows started to calve, we were weighing the heifers and the steers. Now, since the cows are calving, we’re weighing the calves, tagging them and everything like that – just keeping an eye on them,” said Scarff.
Chubbs, a junior studying natural resource management, said that during his time on the farm, he worked closely with the livestock, sheep and cows. He also worked with a colleague in developing an exercise routine for some of the horses.
“We typically perform ground work in the arena, ride on pasture and have recently had the experience of introducing a new thoroughbred into the herd,” said Chubbs.
His favorite part has been learning how to ride, train and manage the horses.
“They’re wonderful and well-mannered creatures, which has ultimately inspired me to write the research paper I’m currently working on for the independent study with the help of Lesa Griffiths [the T.A. Baker Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources],” said Chubbs.
As for the most beneficial aspect, Chubbs said that it’s “getting exposure to how agriculture management strategies affect the pasture, livestock and practically all elements of the entire system. Farming can be extremely brutal and intensive on the land and environment, but it can also be practiced in a way that leads to sustainability and long-term health of the animals and soil.”
Omar, a junior majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences with a double minor in wildlife conservation and theatre studies, said that her main focus was the sheep during lambing season.
“Now that lambing season is over, I have been working with Larry in the overall care of the farm. Besides working with the lambs, which was my personal focus, I also have helped with the beef cattle. Now that it is spring, the beef cattle are allowed to go out and graze on the pasture. I have helped put up fences for the beef cattle, to block off certain areas of the pasture so the cows don’t over graze,” said Omar.
Omar said she loves working on the farm, being outdoors and getting an experience that helped her realize how much she enjoys working with sheep.
“I love working with sheep and would like to pursue sheep production or be involved in some way with the sheep industry. I would not have realized how much I enjoy working with sheep if it weren’t for this independent study,” said Omar.
Both Omar and Scarff also thanked Griffiths for letting them know about the independent study experience.
This 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.
Students 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
University of Delaware undergraduate student Blair Schneider spent time in Brazil earlier this year getting samples from chickens to help with research looking to see if there is something genetically that allows the Brazilian birds to better deal with heat stress than American broiler chickens.
The research is being led at UD by Carl Schmidt, professor and genome scientist in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and is part of a five-year, $4.7 million National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) climate change grant for a project titled “Adapting Chicken Production to Climate Change Through Breeding,” which includes Iowa State University and North Carolina State University, as well.
“We took blood samples and we’re going to get the genome sequenced to see what genes overlap between the African birds and the South American birds. We would hypothesize these [overlapping genes] are due to heat and heat stress or heat acclimation,” said Schneider.
If the researchers can identify those overlapping genes, they might be able to potentially breed beneficial genes into the modern broiler line in the face of heat waves.
To collect their samples, the researchers were guided by Matheus Reis, a postdoc at Sao Paulo State University (UNESP) in Jaboticabal, Brazil, who also spent a year at UD. Reis helped the researchers collect samples and connected them with a local farmer named Mário Irineu Salviato.
The farm at which Salviato worked had 150 different breeds of chicken and the researchers took 200 blood samples from a variety of different breeds, such as ones known as Brazilian Musicians because of how much they sing.
In addition to collecting the samples, Schneider said that she enjoyed being able to experience the Brazilian culture.
“Even at the times when I wasn’t collecting, I felt like I was learning so much. We visited UNESP, as well, and I was able to give a presentation there and then some of the students there gave presentations, and so it was a nice sharing of projects and scientific discussion,” said Schneider.
Schneider said that she enjoys doing genetics work because she likes to understand how things work down to their most basic level.
“My mind is down to the gene level. That’s why I wanted to study genetics but when I entered this lab, Dr. Schmidt made me go through the entire process of collecting the samples as well as analyzing the data and so I have an immense appreciation for the entire process,” said Schneider. “Anyone could just take a tissue from a sample and extract it but you get a new appreciation collecting it yourself.”
Now a senior, Schneider is getting ready to go to graduate school and said that she is interested in the genetics behind the differentiation of stem cells.
“But I’m willing to change. I’m flexible. If I can find an interest in something, it’s very easy for me to become passionate about it,” said Schneider.
One 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.
Four University of Delaware undergraduate students in the Entomology Club headed to Newport, Rhode Island, to teach visitors about the many benefits of insects and dispel some of the negative notions associated with the creatures as part of the Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America’s “It’s a Bugs World” insect expo, which was held March 19 in the atrium of the Newport Marriott as part of the society’s 88th annual meeting.
Rebecca Robertson, a junior double majoring in insect ecology and conservation and wildlife ecology and conservation who is also the president of the Entomology Club, said that the group has a standard group of insects that they bring to outreach events.
“We brought a couple different species of tarantulas and a few scorpions. For the tarantulas, we have one that’s an Arizona blonde and we named her Debbie, after Debbie [Harry] from Blondie, and then we have a scorpion whose name is Dwayne the Flat Rock Scorpion kind of like Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. We try to make our names familiar and friendly because it helps get rid of that initial fear for kids if they sound cute,” said Robertson.
At a lot of these outreach events, Robertson said it is usually the parents who have pre-conceived notions about the bugs and the children who tend to be more open-minded.
“I personally like talking to the kids more because the parents are actually the ones who are afraid and they’ll keep their kids from getting close and interacting with the insects. You have to break through the parents first before you can actually talk to the kids. The parents are usually the ones who learn to be afraid so it’s harder to break them out of it whereas kids are just learning to be afraid so you can turn that around a lot faster,” said Robertson.
Getting children on board with insects at an early age is crucial to dispel many of the myths that surround creatures such as spiders and tarantulas.
“A lot of the fear that we have with insects, we learn to be afraid from media because everyone portrays creatures like spiders as terrible or portrays insects as scary and bad and that goes hand in hand with the fact that we’re not educated about them,” said Robertson. “Our big passion is making sure children are educated about what they’re looking at so they won’t be afraid. They’ll understand that some insects and some spiders are beneficial and predatory and they’ll get rid of pest insects and help balance our ecosystem and realize they’re an important part of our natural world.”
The love for bugs and entomology was instilled in Robertson herself at a young age when her uncle, who is a botanist, introduced her to the idea of studying insects.
“I decided at that point in my life I was going to become an entomologist no matter what. I have always been interested in insects. I think a lot of kids are really passionate about insects and I just never outgrew that,” said Robertson.
For those interested in learning more about or joining the Entomology Club, contact Robertson at email@example.com.
The University of Delaware’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) will launch a three-year undergraduate research experience funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) program known as Envision, which is focused on developing the next generation of agricultural scientists.
Entitled “Undergraduate Research and Education Exploring One Health: Protecting our food supply, animal health, and the environment,” the project will look to address the disparity of underrepresented individuals of the population in agricultural sciences, specifically as this applies to the One Health initiative connecting safe food production to animal health and to stewardship of the environment.
Partnering with the Lincoln and Delaware State Universities, both historically black colleges and universities, 10 undergraduates will work with project investigators for 10 weeks over the summer, from June through mid-August, to develop their own hypothesis-based research projects, document the process using video production training and present their work to both public and scientific audiences.
In addition, UD Cooperative Extension will provide an Extension Scholar for the summer to aid in the implementation of the program.
The summer includes training in video equipment, editing and storytelling, industry trips, laboratory and safety training, and participation in camaraderie-building activities.
Mark Parcells, professor of avian molecular virology in ANFS and the lead project investigator, said, “The ANFS faculty has always had a very strong commitment to undergraduate research, and I was asked to help organize this program and grant proposal, but I am only one of 19 faculty and staff involved in this endeavor. This program involves researchers across many disciplines and provides a great opportunity for students to develop into scientists, not just work in a laboratory or in a field study. As a first-generation college student myself, I see where education can lead and the opportunities it can provide, and now, we as educators and researchers have a duty to provide these opportunities as broadly and inclusively as possible.”
Funding for Envision is part of a larger effort from the USDA that recently awarded more than $5 million in grants for fellowship opportunities for undergraduate students at colleges and universities. This ANFS program is being funded under grant award #2017-67032-26009 for $280,518.
These awards are made through NIFA’s Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduate (REEU) Fellowships program, part of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Education and Literacy Initiative.
The REEU Fellowships program promotes research and extension experiential learning for undergraduates to help them enter the agriculture workforce with skills in food, agriculture, natural resources and the human sciences (FANH). Projects are designed to provide hands-on experience at land-grant and non-land-grant universities and USDA facilities, training to acquire laboratory research and extension skills, mentoring experiences and participation in extension projects or programs that deliver science-based knowledge and informal educational programs.
For 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.
Before 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.
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.
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.
Austin 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.
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.
Students 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.
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.”
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.
When avian influenza ripped across the United States in 2015 — with an estimated 50 million birds affected in the largest outbreak in U.S. history — part of the reason was that the disease spread from farm to farm through equipment that had been in contact with infected birds.
While large-scale poultry operations are able to decontaminate their equipment effectively, that decontamination technology comes at a cost that owners of smaller or backyard flocks oftentimes can’t afford.
Because of this, a University of Delaware multidisciplinary senior design team has developed an easy, low-cost system that backyard flock owners can build for themselves to effectively decontaminate their equipment, thus cutting down on the spread of avian influenza.
The team working on the decontamination system was made up of Xiaolun Guo and Dianna Kitt, seniors in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Lucas Serge and Darian Abreu, seniors in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and their project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Jennifer Buckley, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Dyer Harris, a faculty member in the department, served as advisers for the students on the project.
Eric Benson, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), and Dan Hougentogler, a research associate at CANR, worked closely with the team and served in multiple roles such as offering guidance and coordinating communication with the USDA.
Harris is aware of other institutions that have projects like this spread out over two semesters and said the one-semester timeline helps students focus on their projects right away and that being part of an interdisciplinary team is beneficial for them.
“What awaits them after graduation is that whoever they go to work for are going to have all kinds of different people and skills, and they need to recognize that and feel comfortable with it. It’s one of those things that’s hard to define but it’s helpful,” said Harris.
Undercarriage decontamination system
The project is a cost-effective undercarriage decontamination system for small farm vehicles to allow farmers to wash their vehicles thoroughly after coming in contact with diseased birds.
“The main motivation is that during disease outbreaks a lot of small farmers don’t have anything that can wash their cars and vehicles to prevent the spread of the disease,” said Kitt. “There are large-scale systems used at commercial farms but they’re too expensive for small-scale farmers, so we wanted to build a smaller design that they could easily build themselves and use whenever they needed.”
The design uses materials that can be found at any local hardware store and consists mostly of PVC piping and a collection basin — a large tarp sandwiched between two pieces of wood — underneath the vehicle.
The vehicle can be driven through the decontamination system and rinsed with water and a detergent solution sprayed from the PVC piping, with the runoff material getting caught in the collection basin and cleaned through a sand and biochar filter.
The team also tested citric acid in addition to the detergent solution, but the USDA only allows citric acid to be used in emergencies during avian influenza outbreaks and the detergent solution is a more realistic option for small farmers.
One of the hardest aspects of the project for the team was trying to figure out how to make the system operational with only a semester of time in which to work.
“We tested different hole sizes [in the PVC piping], the number of holes, where they would be, all of that – we played around with everything,” said Abreu.
To actually test the system’s effectiveness, the team worked with a concoction of manure, sandy soil and motor oil — which simulates what would be found on the bottom of a piece of farming equipment in the real world — spread onto a piece of wood.
“We spread all this junk on and the way we’ve defined our efficiency is coverage, so we looked at the percentage of squares touched,” said Serge.
The goal of the project is to have blueprints for the system available on the USDA website so that small farmers can download the plans and create their own decontamination system using the UD design as a framework.
“The idea is that this would be an open source design and the USDA would be able to put the specifications out with the ingredients, and also an instruction manual on how to use one and how to build one. That way [the farmers] can build it on every site and they’d be able to clean their vehicles when they come on or off the farm,” said Benson. “In particular, for a lot of what they call backyard growers, there’s some materials they can be flexible about if they have something different around the farm that they could use to create the system.”
Benson said that human contact spread avian influenza, particularly in the Midwest, and anything the researchers can do to cut down on the human spread of the disease is important for the country.
“At a price point that is relatively effective, a good cleaning system like this can cut down on about 90 percent or more of the viral load and so if they can get a good cleaning and then spray it with the disinfectant system that they’re designing, it could really have a meaningful impact on disease control in the United States,” said Benson.
This is the first time someone from Delaware has been elected a national FFA officer in 47 years, and Townsend is the first national president to come from the state.
FFA is an extracurricular organization bringing togetherthose interested in agriculture and leadership in an effort to spread agricultural education throughout the country.
“FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education,” said Alice Moore, one of Townsend’s collegiate FFA advisers and a past Maryland FFA state vice president who served in 1983-84.
Townsend, who is majoring in agriculture and natural resources and plant sciences at UD, is a 2014 graduate of Middletown (Delaware) High School, where he was very active in FFA. In 2015, he was Delaware FFA state treasurer, serving more than 10,000 students.
As a national officer, Townsend will travel more than 100,000 miles nationally and internationally. He will be interacting will fellow FFA members, industry leaders and business professionals through speeches and workshops to promote agricultural literacy.
He will finish out this semester at UD and then take a leave of absence for the following year in order to serve as president and travel across the country.
Bart Gill, state FFA adviser, said Townsend will develop a strong network and connections for life after college. He will develop speaking skills, time management and life skills.
Townsend will go through extensive training between December and January, and then begin traveling in March.
“David is a very unique and talented individual. I’m really excited for members across the nation to be able to get to know him throughout the next year because he is very genuine and easy to talk to,” said Gill.
Townsend applied to be national president last year but did not get the position. This was the last year he qualified to apply due to FFA age limits, and he was elected to the position.
“David was very proactive with this application. He did most of the work himself in getting all the necessary application materials in from those he knew would help him most,” Gill said. “I helped guide him when he asked for my assistance in applying the first time around when didn’t get it. He tried again this year and I am so excited for him to have been elected president.”
Although his position is not paid, all travel and living expenses are covered, and at the end of his term, Townsend will receive a scholarship from the FFA.
Each year, delegates of FFA elect a president, secretary and vice president to represent the central, southern, eastern and western regions of the country. Townsend had to be recommended by the state in order to be considered, and all candidates must have already served as officers on local or state level before.
Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said, “Everyone in the college is beaming with pride on the news of David’s election as FFA president. This is the first time in decades that Delaware has had a national officer, and the only time we’ve had an FFA president from Delaware. He is going to have the experience of a lifetime as president, and I know he will be a great reflection on agriculture in the First State.”
Townsend has been working at the UDairy Creamery since April. Melinda Shaw, manager of the UDairy Creamery, said, “David is a natural leader and a genuinely kind person. I’m not surprised he was elected president, he’s so passionate about the FFA, and everything he’s involved in. His passion and positivity is contagious. We will surely miss him while he’s on his tenure as FFA president but everyone at the creamery couldn’t be more proud of David. We are honored to have him as part of the Moo Crew.”
Arba Henry, Townsend’s independent study instructor, said, “David is a very well-versed person. He will represent the state and university very well, and I am thrilled for him to embark on this journey.”
Moore, co-adviser of the UD Collegiate FFA with Henry, said, “I am very excited for David being elected as national president of FFA. It will be wonderful to follow David in his year as national FFA president as he inspires the members that to make a positive difference in the lives of others as in the mission statement of the FFA.”
Kathryn Daly, Townsend’s academic adviser, said, “David has been a great student to work with, he possesses strong leadership skills that, combined with his passion for agriculture, make him the perfect fit for this position. He has a genuine interest in people and really exemplifies what it means to be a team player. I don’t think he’s ever met a stranger and his enthusiastic and warm personality make him the type of person that you want to work with. I have no doubt that he will excel in this position.”
A video clip of the national FFA convention can be viewed here, with Townsend featured in the election results beginning at around the 2-hour, 29-minute mark.
Sprout, a non-profit organization, offers therapeutic riding to those in need of improving their physical, mental, and emotional health.
Waldron, who graduated from UD in 2005 with a degree in the animal science pre-veterinary program in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and in biology and biotechnology, initially wanted to become an equine vet.
As a child and teen, Waldron rode and competed horses and said she cherished her relationship with the animals. During her time at UD, she was on the equestrian team and served as president of the Agriculture College Council and Sigma Alpha professional sorority.
She took many animal science classes, including an equine management and reproduction class that specialized in studying the University’s Haflingers.
She also participated in a study abroad program to New Zealand with Lesa Griffiths, T.A. Baker Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Dr. Griffiths was an incredibly influential person in my life,” said Waldron.
While at UD, Waldron worked as a lab assistant for Robert Dyer, associate professor of animal and food sciences, where she assisted in teaching anatomy and physiology lab.
This experience fostered a love for teaching in addition to her love for horses, and Waldron went on to get a master’s degree in education at Marymount University in Virginia and to begin teaching life sciences at a middle school.
Waldron was settling in to her teaching career when a surprise opportunity to start a farm came upon her and her family. As a proponent of inclusion, she had many students with special needs in her classes and wanted to do something where she could combine her passions.
“When the opportunity to start a center came along, I jumped at it. Now my job combines the best of all worlds – kids, horses and teaching,” Waldron said.
According to Waldron, Sprout was a soybean farm when her family bought it in 2009. The farm had no barn, arena, fields or even grass for horses.
With what she learned during her time at UD, Waldron was able to transform the old soybean farm into a horse sanctuary. “Being prepared by what I learned in college and having the know-how to take a care of a farm was very beneficial to me,” she said. “We planted grass seed according to what the horses required, designed the facility, secured the necessary horses, tack and volunteers, and started running in 2011.”
During the farm conversion, Waldron also became a certified therapeutic riding instructor through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship (PATH International) and worked to make Sprout a PATH center, which requires strict adherence to administrative, facility, program and equine care standards.
Waldron said she is proud of the professionalism of the industry and is now an advanced instructor and certified mentor.
In five years, Sprout has grown from that soybean farm to an organization that serves an average of 125 individuals each week, from an organization with a budget of $0 to $424,000 annually, from empty stalls, and a farm with no horses or equipment to 14 horses in service, bountiful lesson materials, tack and adaptive options.
The growth validates the community’s need for this form of support, Waldon said.
Sprout offers several areas of programming that meet the various needs of riders with disabilities:
Therapeutic riding, the largest program, teaches riding skills that relate to the life goals of the participants.
Therapeutic carriage driving utilizes the same goals but is a preferred program for individuals that fall below or above the size restrictions for riding, in addition to people who have equipment that cannot fit on the back of a horse, such as ventilators.
Equine movement therapy is designed to support physical improvement for muscles, joints and systems, which is done with the help of a physical therapist.
The default for many people with special needs is to spend time in clinical therapy – physical, occupational, speech, behavioral therapies – and those can be stressful and unpleasant environment for children, Waldron said.
“Kids get anxious about going to the doctor, and many of my students don’t do too much else but go to clinic, so this is literally a breath of fresh air for them,” she said.
The horse’s three-dimension movement replicates the movement the human body experiences while walking, therefore strengthening and stimulating similar muscles in a repetitive pattern that regulates the nervous system.
“A horse gives movement to someone when, typically, the alternative is only sitting or using large-scale clinical equipment,” said Waldron. “Most clients prefer riding to any other activity or therapy and it meets so many of their needs at the same time.”
Miracles happen at Sprout because of the range of physical, emotional and cognitive support that is given when riding, Waldron said, adding that riding is a unique therapy that meets people “where they are, wherever they are,” with the horse as a mediator and partner in achieving their life goals.
“The thing I love so much about my job is seeing an animal that I am so passionate about impact others on a large and multi-dimensional scale. My horses are my partners and humble co-workers. Together, we change people’s lives,” said Waldron.
Sprout also offers equine assisted learning/psychotherapy, which is an off-horse program that provides experiential mental/physical/cognitive activities that meet clients’ needs.
The instincts of the horse are used to help people become aware of their behaviors and norms, reactions, communication and body language. Being such large animals, their reactions are large and also very easy to see, Waldron said, adding that ss prey animals, horses are also extremely sensitive to their environment and “present.”
Their ability to give clear, unbiased, real-time feedback to clients allows them to improve the way they interact with the world and other people in it, she said.
“Many times, people don’t realize how they’re coming across to others, and the horse allows you to have conversations to help them realize and improve their emotional and mental outlook – and, consequently, their relationships with others,” said Waldron.
As a non-profit, Sprout is reliant on a community of supporters who give of their “time and treasure,” Waldron said.
Sprout has a database of 500 volunteers with upwards of 100 are active each week. Volunteers complete necessary jobs that allow the centre to run, she said.
Sprout has internship opportunities available and is thankful for the support of college interns who have served in various capacities, Waldron said.
The center is also reliant on donors to subsidize fees for the riders. In the state of Virginia, insurance does not cover animal-based therapies and horses are expensive to maintain. Because of this, Sprout is a non-profit, which allows the organization to raise funds to subsidize costs at a level that is affordable for those in need of the service, Waldron said.
“Sprout is committed to providing hope, healing, empowerment and recovery to a population that is all too often overlooked and undervalued,” Waldron said. “We invest in changing lives, in proving what people can do and in supporting the whole person. In a world where limitations and restrictions abound. We are the believers, we are the do-ers, we are the possiblitarians.”
Working as a community redevelopment and design intern to help implement and develop the landscape design plans for Leipsic Town Hall and the Laurel Ramble was just about the perfect way for the University of Delaware’s Austin Virdin to spend his summer.
Leipsic is a small, picturesque community located on the Leipsic River in Kent County, Delaware.
“We took on the town hall landscape design, met with town council, proposed our ideas, and all produced final designs. My task in the internship was to take all the student design work and develop a final product with the components that town council liked and everything that members of the community wanted,” said Virdin. “After combining everything into one design, I then produced the planting plan to bring it to fruition.”
Virdin said the concept is now becoming a reality, as the design he created with Bruck was approved by the town council with the hope that it might be installed in the fall.
The Leipsic landscaping project grew out of the Working Waterfronts Initiative in the community for which Ed Lewandowski, acting marine advisory services 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, he connected them with Bruck.
“I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with Dr. Bruck on community engagement projects in other Delaware municipalities, so I recognize the tremendous talent and value that she and her students can add to this type of cross-disciplinary, cross-college project,” said Lewandowski.
With the new design, Virdin said the building will be a gathering space for the community instead of being used just once a month for town council meetings.
“In the rear of the property we designed an open green space surrounded by a wooded planting. The intent of this is to create a defined gathering space that can serve a variety of purposes such as for festivals or meetings. The intent is for it to become a space that the community benefits from more than just once a month,” said Virdin.
Virdin said that he is looking forward to seeing the project come to life after being involved with it from the earliest design stage in the classroom to actual implementation.
“I enjoy these kinds of projects where we create the concept plan, and it is not only liked by people and approved but it is also implemented. I think that’s pretty rewarding to see the work that you created come to life in that sense,” said Virdin. “Some of the other projects we worked on in that class have been implemented in Newark but this project has been more meaningful to me as Leipsic is about 10 minutes from where I live in Dover. It has been a great opportunity to work down there.”
Virdin also spent time during his internship working with Bruck and Lewandowski on the Laurel Ramble project in Sussex County, Delaware.
Bruck and Lewandowski have been working on the project for the past few years, and Virdin, whose internship was run through Bruck’s Evolution Landscape Design business and funded through Delaware Sea Grant, said he helped with some of the detailed specifications, as most of the concept had already been designed.
These specifications included developing a pattern book for future business and home developers to use as a reference.
“Laurel just received a downtown development district designation from the state of Delaware which will spur development in the area. Through this pattern book, we’re looking to the future by setting guidelines that will define Laurel. Instead of an assortment of different architectural styles and colors, our mission is to create a unified feeling throughout the town that is unique to Laurel,” said Virdin.
The pattern book will include everything from colors that are approved by the town, approved designs for signage displays that will be facing the street, and styles of molding, shutters and windows.
“We also included a section with approved plants and a garden design for the town. This way, we can exclude plants that are invasive or alien, and recommend ones that would be beneficial or are native. Our intent is to inform the residents about what plants should be excluded from their landscape,” said Virdin.
Virdin said his favorite part of the internship was being able to attend town council meetings and speak with residents about what they wanted to see implemented in the space.
“It was nice to not only create designs, and have those designs implemented, but also to work with small towns that I would not necessarily have the opportunity to work with. These towns function completely differently than a city like Newark, which is not a large city by any means, but has greater complex workings than a town like Leipsic or Laurel. Actually being in those town council meetings and talking to residents, getting their input, was the most meaningful and helpful aspect in all the design work that I worked on,” said Virdin.
A new landscape architecture major has been established in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) for students looking to combine their technical skills with their creative ones to tackle real world issues through environmental problem-solving.
Jules Bruck, associate professor of landscape design who was recently appointed to the Delaware Board of Landscape Architecture, will serve as the director of the program for the next three years. She said that adding a landscape architecture program has been talked about at CANR for quite some time.
To make the landscape architecture major a reality, a committee in the college worked closely over the course of two years with faculty members in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, which houses the major, as well as with a focus group of professionals in the field who weighed in on what they would like to see in the program.
“The major is kind of comparable to engineering or nursing programs in that there’s a professional licensure involved that students would be on track to receive after they’ve completed the degree,” said Carmine Balascio, associate professor.
The program will work to gain accreditation from the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board after being in a candidacy status period. Attaining accreditation will help graduates when they head out to look for careers in the field, Balascio said.
“We designed the program to meet the requirements of accreditation in the field, which is something that facilitates a student becoming licensed if the program from which they graduate is an accredited program,” he said.
The entire Department of Plant and Soil Sciences faculty will teach courses in the major, with Anna Wik, assistant professor of landscape architecture, Bruck, Sue Barton, associate professor and Cooperative Extension specialist, and Balascio being especially involved.
Wik said she is excited that the program is housed in CANR and specifically in the department.
“One of the underserved objectives of landscape architecture education is plant knowledge, and, as part of the plant and soil sciences department, we are in a really good place to graduate students who are well-rounded and have a strong grasp of plant identification and plant communities,” said Wik. “The bachelor’s of landscape architecture is important because it provides a professional degree program in which students who are interested in ecological systems, design, plants and engineering can learn about and apply these skills. It will be a positive addition to the college.”
One of the first students to major in landscape architecture is Austin Virdin, a senior at UD who said that his favorite part about landscape architecture is working with the built environment and creating spaces that people engage with.
“A successful design serves many purposes; it can address ecological issues, unify communities and encourage individuals to interact with the landscape. Creating a user-centered experience through the use of plants and structural elements completely changes how someone perceives their surroundings. Oftentimes people do not realize that a majority of the places they enjoy spending time in outdoors have been designed by a landscape architect,” said Virdin.
The major will include a senior capstone in which students will design a real project from start to finish with visiting practitioners who will help Bruck and Wik in the design studio.
Program leaders also are hoping to have a junior symposium in which they will partner with a local public garden and invite other students from area universities that have landscape architecture programs to present and learn how to work collaboratively.
“There is a leadership component of the curriculum. Part of what we want them to do as future leaders is to think about what it means to work collaboratively as part a team, to put together a big project, and then to benefit from all the different knowledge and networking with professionals,” said Bruck.
When they developed the curriculum for the major, the committee developed three sections: planning and design, plants and ecosystems, and leading the profession.
Members also discussed including a technology track, in which students could collaborate with the art and design major to get them comfortable with the technology they will have to use in landscape architecture.
“Some of it is so cutting edge, using virtual reality or 3-D modeling. We want the opportunity for some of our students interested in technology, to take extra courses in connection with the art and design program. This will lead to a unique sets of skills when they graduate with a technology emphasis as part of their landscape architecture degree,” said Bruck.
Balascio will teach planning and design courses that are cross listed with civil engineering.
“I have a mix of students and we address some of the typical engineering site development and technical components that anybody that works with a site is going to need to understand. The students need to know everything from surveying, which is a hands-on sort of thing in the field, to computer modeling of a site for, say, the hydrology and the layout and things like that,” said Balascio.
Leaders are hoping to have around 15 students in the major per graduating class and are excited about giving students the opportunity to make a difference in the world and in their local communities.
“We have set up this program to allow students to give back to the community; it aligns with the University’s mission as a community engaged university,” said Wik.
Bruck said that this is a major for people who want to solve global challenges.
“Landscape architects concern themselves with resiliency against climate change, food access, sustainable and equitable communities, as well as water quantity and quality. If you want to make the world a better place, you should be a landscape architect,” said Bruck.
She also added that UD is perfectly situated to house such a program.
“In Delaware and nearby Pennsylvania there are many wonderful public gardens. We have a strong network of professional landscape architects in the region and community partners who are supportive of our mission. We want to build and maintain these important connections for the value these partnerships will bring to our students. It feels like UD landscape architecture will quickly become an integral part of our existing culture in the Delaware Valley and in this region,” said Bruck.
Marinelle Zarraga spent her summer gaining broad exposure to veterinary careers, along with the challenges and rewards that are part and parcel of the profession.
Zarraga, a rising sophomore in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources who is majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences, had weekly rotations working alongside an equine and a dairy veterinarian.
She was able to compare the day-to-day operations of a small, rural animal hospital to that of a larger medical center, receiving hands-on poultry laboratory diagnostics training, and obtaining an up close look at the responsibilities of the state veterinarian.
Zarraga had a solid start in biological science as her parents, Cynthia and Antonio Zarraga, are doctors practicing internal medicine in Milford, Delaware, and her two older brothers — both UD alumni — are pursuing careers in medicine. Zarraga’s childhood goal to be a small animal vet, while breaking with tradition, was met with the full support of her family.
Before Zarraga graduated from St. Thomas More Academy in Magnolia, she began her college search and turned to Mark Isaacs, director of the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown and a faculty member in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences who had known the family for years and was aware of her interest in veterinary science.
Having narrowed her pre-vet choices to four colleges, Isaacs suggested she have a conversation with Jack Gelb, professor in UD’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences. The talk with Gelb and CANR’s on-site farm and reputation sold Zarraga.
“UD is a powerhouse – it has a really strong animal science program that prepares a student well for veterinary school,” she said.
In the summer of 2015, Isaacs offered Zarraga an opportunity to work at Lasher Laboratory, a poultry diagnostic lab located at the Carvel Center. Funding to hire summer interns at Carvel in 2016 was supported by a $10,000 annual grant provided by the Sussex County Council.
Initially unfamiliar with Lasher and not having a particular interest in poultry as a career, Zarraga agreed the exposure would be beneficial.
Her first day at Lasher found her working side by side with Dan Bautista, director of Lasher Laboratory, conducting necropsy on chickens.
“I thought to myself, I can either do this or run out now, so I just did it,” Zarraga said. The procedure allowed her to see how a disease progresses through live animals. “It was a shock at first,” she said. “But it allowed me to view the stages, something I would have to do for pre-vet and vet school.”
The two summers at Lasher provided Zarraga with significant lab time working with bacteriology, serology — the study of blood serum — and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) testing. When she approached Isaacs about returning to Lasher in the summer of 2016, he encouraged her to diversify her experiences so the two began to plan where she might obtain hands-on training in the field.
As a result, she began rotations with Ruthie Franczek, a large animal veterinarian based in Smyrna.
“I had a vision in my head of what she does that was completely different,” Zarraga said, noting she was surprised that Franczek’s office was a fully equipped vehicle and not a physical office. “She has a tentative schedule, but there is no patient list. She gets calls from day-to-day and travels to clients.”
Zarraga next went to the Savannah Animal Hospital in Lewes. The practice includes nine veterinarians and about five vet technicians assigned to each doctor. Zarraga’s arrival coincided with the training of new vet technicians, and she shadowed their instruction.
“I learned a lot from the licensed vet techs who explained everything they were doing to the students,” Zarraga said.
The Lewes hospital was a busy clinic offering 24-hour emergency services and the latest in equipment and Zarraga was able to observe many procedures.
Next, at Western Sussex Animal Hospital in Bridgeville, Zarraga worked under the guidance of Craig Metzner, a UD alumnus and one of two vets practicing at the hospital with four to five vet technicians supporting.
In comparing the two, Zarraga observed diverse decision-making processes that pet owners consider regarding how much to spend on treatments.
At both locations, she was impressed by the compassionate professionalism of the staff members, and noted the importance of a good bedside manner because good communication skills between the vet and the client/owner are crucial in the profession.
In July, Zarraga accompanied Heather Hirst, Delaware state veterinarian, as she made her rounds at the Delaware State Fair. The timing was fortunate as Hirst was providing a detailed orientation with Karen Lopez, the new deputy state veterinarian, and Zarraga received the same overview.
Zarraga was surprised at the amount of regulation involved with the position and how animal health ties in closely with human health. “It was a unique perspective. A lot of what Dr. Hirst does is at a desk, dealing more with regulations than patients,” she said. “The Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) gets calls for ducks, geese — possible carriers of avian influenza.”
Zarraga discovered that rabies and West Nile virus all come into her purview as well in considering public health.
Zarraga was also brought along for tours at Hopkins Dairy in Lewes, and at Delaware Park as horse racing makes use of commissioned vets, with three vets on the premise at all times to take blood tests and examine the horses before and after the races.
For Zarraga, Hirst served as a model for moving into broader career opportunities. “Dr. Hirst practiced first as a dairy vet, and transitioned into clinical science and public health,” she said. “Vets can be more fluid, have more career opportunities to work for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), food safety, pharmaceuticals or corporate work. Students need to know the options.”
Zarraga’s single most eye-opening experience was the passion that vets have to maintain. The financial aspects are a struggle with student debt and start-up costs both being significant investments.
“Most of the vets disclosed that they do not do this for the money. You are not doing this to get rich. It will not be easy. You have to love what you do on a day-to-day basis to keep going,” Zarraga said.
Throughout her internship, Isaacs encouraged Zarraga to keep a journal which she did and consults whenever she needs to look up questions or unfamiliar terms later for follow-up.
Isaacs’ guidance has opened her eyes to the value of mentorship. “Mark has gone above and beyond to snag these opportunities for me. I am thankful for that because nobody gets these types of experience. I want to use that to my advantage and try and make him proud,” Zarraga said.
The mentorship experience hasn’t ended with Isaacs, as Zarraga said that she has a lot of resources at UD.
After seeing how her lab work at Lasher was connected to the Allen Laboratory, she stopped Gelb in the hallway to share her experiences and he was pleased to hear about them.
“All of my professors, Dr. Robert Dyer, Dr. Lesa Griffiths, they just want to see you succeed,” said Zarraga.
Students, too, Zarraga noted, need to do their part. “I started out reserved and shy. I’ve learned not to be afraid to ask – to make yourself stand out because it is very competitive. My advice to students is to get to know the UD faculty. Use them as resources because they want to help you. They are very approachable,” she said.
The University of Delaware’s 10-week College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Summer Institute came to a close on Friday, Aug., 12, but before students left the UD campus, they were treated to a UDairy Creamery ice cream social provided by Eric Wommack, deputy dean of CANR, where they had the opportunity to share what they learned during their time as undergraduate research assistants at the college.
The CANR Summer Institute is a program that provides undergraduate students interested in animal, agricultural or life sciences the opportunity to conduct hands-on research under the supervision of a professor’s guidance, and also learn about pursuing graduate studies.
“The thing that I think is so critical about having undergraduate research opportunities is that they get a real world experience of doing research and the statistics are pretty clear that students who have done research internships are far more likely to stay in a science field and pursue a career in science,” said Wommack. “It’s hopefully a two-way street. The professors offer the research opportunity, but also get a little extra help on their research project, and hopefully the students will return the favour by doing more research of their own in the future.”
The students got a diverse range of hands-on experiences during their time at CANR, from tracking waterfowl migration patterns, to finding out whether fish have the ability to detect heavy metals, to studying white blood cells in cows.
Daniel Day, an environmental science major from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, spent the summer researching waterfowl and wildlife populations with Jeff Buler, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, using radar technology to map waterfowl populations across the state, and specifically examine how land change has affected bird behavior at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge.
Alesia Hunter, an environmental biology major from Beloit (Wisconsin) College, studied metal concentrations in mangrove leaves with Angelia Seyfferth, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.
“It seems fish are steering away from certain areas of mangroves. We think it may be the extra metals within the leaves of the mangrove trees that the fish may be able to detect. So far we’ve found detectable levels of zinc and copper in our ‘polluted sites,’” said Hunter.
Alexis Trench, a pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major from UD worked with Tanya Gressley, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, studying neutrophils, a special type of bacteria-fighting blood cell.
Kaitlyn Markey, majoring in plant and soil sciences at North Carolina State University, researched phosphorus in soils with Amy Shober, an associate professor and nutrient management and environmental quality extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, evaluating soil amendments that can help to enhance plant uptake of phosphorus that is already in the soil by small grains like winter wheat or barley.
They hope to find a way to harvest the phosphorus, or keep it from leaching out of the soil so they can use the phosphorus in place of chicken manure for fertilizer, which isn’t always best for the environment.
“The greatest thing I’ve taken away from the Summer Institute is most definitely the research experience. I’ve worked with professors before, but never had the opportunity to do things in labs, hands-on. I think it’s really good to get that experience,” said Markey.
The CANR Summer Institute helps students get a research experience that will hopefully foster more students to join, and remain, in the science fields.
Maria Pautler, coordinator of the CANR Summer Institute, said that, “The research experience, coupled with opportunities to attend seminars, workshops, and social gatherings, exposes the students to the ‘big picture’ of graduate school and career decision-making. I have seen students work at a steady pace to be able to ultimately talk about their experience outcomes and the contribution made to their faculty mentor’s program.”
Wommack said that the Summer Institute provides students with an incredibly enriching research experience.
“In general, students don’t realize how enriching it can be until they actually do it. They get attracted to science through documentaries, movies, maybe science class in grade school, but it’s all abstract until you actually do it,” said Wommack.
Members of the University of Delaware community searching for local, sustainable, student grown and handpicked produce need look no further than UD Fresh to You, an organic garden located on UD’s South Campus in Newark.
UD Fresh to You is heavily involved in community outreach through retail at the garden itself, donations to the Food Bank of Delaware and selling produce to local restaurants.
Located off Route 896 near the University’s Townsend Hall — next to the former Girl Scouts building and across from the historic farmhouse — patrons can stop by UD Fresh to You every Thursday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. to select from an assortment of locally grown seasonal produce, including everything from tomatoes, corn, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, squash, and collard greens to sunflowers. Available in the fall will be pumpkins, which can be used to bake pies or make jack-o’-lanterns.
Once serving as the Garden for the Community, which would donate produce solely to the Food Bank of Delaware, UD Fresh to You started doing retail business in 2013 and expanded by about an acre into a conventional field to bring the total acreage of the garden to just under four acres.
“We became a retail center for produce and we were meeting somewhat of a food desert for fresh produce in this area,” said Mike Popovich, research associate in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources who oversees the garden.
Popovich said that the garden is self-supporting and for the most part, “every penny that we generate goes back into supplies and paying wages for the students. This is an experiential learning process for them.”
With regard to the biggest seller at the garden, Popovich said that like other farms in the Mid-Atlantic, there is an emphasis on tomatoes and sweet corn.
“You live and die by the tomato in the Mid-Atlantic. If you’re of any size, you’ve got to be doing watermelon, sweet corn and tomatoes. Those are the three big crops,” he said. “Spring and fall, we’re looking at a lot of greens. We’ll sell a lot of green tomatoes this year. There’s a lot of pickling operations starting up in this area and they want to pickle green tomatoes, or make relishes and salsas.”
In the fall of 2013, a high tunnel was installed to extend the garden’s growing season into the spring and fall semesters. Production in the high tunnel began in the spring of 2014.
“The high tunnel allows us and the classes here on campus to utilize the structure so that they can actually be outside and growing things,” said Popovich, who added that they incorporate raised bed production in the high tunnel, which allows them to get more production and adds some aesthetics to the structure.
There are currently five student interns who work at the garden, with Popovich saying that as the garden expands, they will probably go up to six or eight interns total.
“We need roughly two or three interns per acre in organic production, especially with the mixed crops that we do,” Popovich said. “Melissa Hammel [a junior in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment] and Nicolas Adams [a sophomore in CANR] are also earning credits through the plant and soil sciences department for this internship. We pay pretty well. The work is hard, the days are long and it’s very hot.”
Maddie Hannah, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences who is working this summer as a full-time farm intern and helps plant, manage and harvest the produce, said that the interns usually start at seven or eight o’clock in the morning.
“We’ll rotate the crops so we’ll always have different things going in and different things going out. Tuesday and Wednesday are restaurant orders so that’s when we harvest everything and deliver it to the restaurants,” said Hannah.
Hannah said that the big draw of UD Fresh to You for her is the fact that the produce is local and organic.
“The biggest thing is locally grown. People don’t realize when you’re buying produce from Guatemala and Mexico how big of an environmental impact that has with transportation and just how it is grown. The fact that most of this is produced organically and then it’s local, your transportation costs are cut out and we don’t package anything, either,” said Hannah.
As for the most beneficial aspect of the internship, Hannah said that it is learning how the crops are grown.
“I didn’t know how okra grew. I didn’t know how hard it was to harvest a cabbage. Learning that and appreciating it. We go to the store and buy our food and that’s it, so for me, this summer, I’m learning a lot of how much work goes into it,” said Hannah.
Restaurants and the Food Bank
In addition to being able to buy the produce at UD Fresh to You, the produce is also sold to restaurants such as the House of William and Merry, which Popovich said has been with them since the beginning, the student run Vita Nova restaurant on campus, Grain on Main, Platinum Dining Group — which features restaurants such as Taverna and Red Fire Grill steakhouse — Goat Kitchen and Bar, Ulysses gastropub and Newark Natural Foods.
Popovich is also proud of the fact that after retail, the garden still has a lot of produce to donate to the Food Bank of Delaware.
“I use Friday to give extra to the Food Bank of Delaware, and we should be in that 20,000-pound donation range this year. We should shatter our 2012 record which was 16,700. I think I’m already over 10,000 for the year so I’d like to get to that 10-ton mark for the Food Bank this year,” said Popovich.
UD Fresh to You is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. every Thursday with a rain date every Friday. The produce is also available in the lobby of the UDairy Creamery.
There is a hint of New Zealand in the air at the University of Delaware’s UDairy Creamery this summer with the introduction of a new ice cream flavor, Hokey Pokey, to the menu.
The flavor was inspired by students who went to New Zealand on a University of Delaware study abroad program during Winter Session. They brought back with them a better understanding of the country, and that served as the catalyst for the new flavor.
Madison Cahill, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), and Nikki Dowgos, a 2016 CANR graduate who majored in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences, were part of the most recent study abroad, and they returned eager to bring some New Zealand influence back with them to the United States.
As a food science major, Cahill said she wanted to try as many foods as possible while in New Zealand and incorporate those flavors into her future endeavours. She found a favorite in the nation’s popular honeycomb-based candy called Hokey Pokey.
“To be completely honest, I think I ate Hokey Pokey every day. Nikki and I came back, and we talked to Melinda Shaw [UDairy Creamery manager] about bringing the flavor over. Turns out, she [loved Hokey Pokey] and always wanted it in the creamery,” said Cahill.
Hokey Pokey was not the easiest flavor to recreate as it required preliminary research and the staple ingredient of the flavor, the honeycomb candy, was too expensive to import.
“We searched around online until we found a recipe we thought could work,” said Cahill.
Shaw said, “We had to research whether we could get a hold of the candy. It turns out we have to make it ourselves, because I believe we are the only ones in the country with the flavor. The candy is the hardest part about Hokey Pokey, but that’s what is so unique about the ice cream.”
Having been to New Zealand herself, Shaw always wanted to bring the flavor to the creamery, and when Cahill and Dowgos came back raving about it, she told them to “figure out how to make it.”
The UDairy Creamery website describes it as “vanilla ice cream with handmade New Zealand style sponge candy pieces,” and the flavor not only has a unique taste, but also packs a rich history.
The Hokey Pokey man
“Back in the day, in Italy, the ice cream man was called the Hokey Pokey man. The ice cream man in Italy would say ‘c e un poco,’ or have a little,” said Shaw.
The ice cream man eventually became known as the “Hokey Pokey man” because of the way he’d sing and chant the phrase.
In New Zealand, Hokey Pokey showed up in stores in the late 1940s and it became such a part of New Zealand culture that the ice cream is included in tourism sites about New Zealand.
Making the candy is tricky because it is like concocting a caramel, which requires a very specific temperature of the liquid sugar. The candy is hard like toffee, but has little air bubbles that make it very light and it melts in the mouth like cotton candy. The fact that it melts so easily also makes it tricky because when it comes into contact with the ice cream, it melts slightly.
“The candy is the most challenging. It’s a unique recipe that takes some time. You have to babysit it,” said Jennifer Rodammer, assistant manager of the UDairy Creamery.
A New Zealand staple
Lesa Griffiths, the T.A. Baker Professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and coordinator of the study abroad program, has been leading students to New Zealand since 1999. “All the students that go to New Zealand end up trying Hokey Pokey because it’s everywhere,” she said. “Ice cream is very popular in New Zealand – almost more than in the U.S.”
Griffiths said that when Limin Kung, chair of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and the S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Animal Science, offered to buy ice cream for students returning for the 2016 Alumni Weekend, “they were all surprised and delighted to find Hokey Pokey was on the flavor list.”
Hokey Pokey may not be available year-around, so those who wish to try a taste of New Zealand should plan on stopping by the UDairy Creamery this summer.
Hokey Pokey isn’t the only flavor with cultural influence available at the creamery, as flavors such as 1923, Peach Green Tea and Mexican Chocolate all have a global influence.
Each April, the UDairy Creamery also creates a flavor for the Institute for Global Studies (IGS), creating a treat to represent the country that IGS features.
Public water utility managers around the country are taking note of the impacts climate change will bring to bear on local water resources and are looking for ways to prepare for eventualities ranging from floods to droughts to increased salinity.
Linda Grand, a graduate student at the University of Delaware, has been working to provide water utility and resource managers with more policy tools and options to help keep clean water flowing from our faucets despite climate change. This summer, she is pursuing her research through an internship at the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) in San Francisco.
Her interest in the field solidified through undergraduate research internships funded through the Delaware Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), including a summer internship at the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) in 2014 where she focused on standardizing regulations in Delaware wildlife areas.
After graduation, Grand decided to remain in Newark to pursue her master’s degree. Her summer work in California will help with her research on the effects severe drought has on drinking water utilities.
“Here at PPIC, I’m surveying drinking water utilities throughout the state about how the drought has impacted them,” Grand said, referring to the historic drought that has gripped the state of California for the past five years.
Speaking about her research more generally, Grand says that she’s looking for economic incentives for farmers to reduce the pollution that runs off their fields during precipitation events.
“In Delaware, more than 90 percent of our surface waters are currently rated as impaired or polluted,” she said. “Agricultural chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers that are applied to fields and then run off with precipitation into waterways are a significant source of these pollutants.”
Noting that it’s much harder and more costly to monitor and clean up these chemicals once they enter a stream, Grand says she began looking at different types of subsidies that could be offered to farmers to reduce the amount of chemicals they use.
In economic experiments at the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics, Grand asked students to pose as farmers in a simulation game in which they make decisions about their level of crop production in order to earn money.
“We’re seeing that if you have a drinking water utility or treatment plant that is downstream from a bunch of farmers, the utility would be willing to pay the farmers to reduce production,” she said. “It makes economic sense for the utility because it’s cheaper than removing those pollutants from the water.”
“My research also accounts for how these subsidies would work with climate variables,” Grand said. “If there’s a flood, that will impact utilities, and we may have to adjust the subsidy. The impact of a drought is another variable we’re looking at.”
This line of research may be especially valued right now in a state like California, where the governor declared a drought state of emergency in January 2014. However, other areas of the country are likely to face their own disruptive weather emergencies in the future.
“My research could definitely help show policy makers what water policies work and how people would react,” Grand said.
The University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences program had its most successful spring on record, sending 29 students to veterinary and medical schools with an acceptance rate of 96 percent.
Eight of those students were accepted to Ivy League schools with five going to the University of Pennsylvania and three to Cornell University. Three students were accepted to Tufts University and two students were accepted into medical school. One student in particular was accepted into 12 veterinary schools.
Lesa Griffiths, the T.A. Baker Professor in CANR, said that the success of the students is contingent on many factors, with one of the most important being the location of a working farm right on campus. That provides students critical hands-on discovery learning opportunities.
“What is unique about us, and getting more and more unique, is the 350-acre farm right on campus. Students have access to the farm 24/7 and they don’t have to take buses or rely on transportation to the farm, so we’re able to incorporate the farm into many of our classes and undergraduate research and our internship experiences. I think that still having a farm and then having it right on campus is getting more and more unique,” said Griffiths.
The farm is utilized from day one for students in the program. Beginning with their first fall semester, students get to go out on the farm and participate in discovery learning.
The discovery learning also comes in the form of undergraduate research opportunities offered by the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) and field experience courses in which students work on the UD farm, other local farms, or with local veterinarians and animal shelters.
The program also offers a curriculum that reflects a unique combination of faculty expertise, with strengths in animal health and nutrition and the interactions between animal health and animal nutrition.
“It is unusual to have a faculty very focused on animal health and nutrition and that grew out of the link to the poultry industry and poultry health, although it’s much more basic now in terms of microbiology and virology. The microbiology has grown out of links to both food science and food safety, and now with the huge interest in the gut microbiome and its link to human health,” said Griffiths.
Griffiths also pointed to the program’s faculty expertise and advising capabilities as setting the students up for success.
“We have a lot of advisees so I think the fact that we can continue to make it very personal and one on one is really critical,” said Griffiths. “We work very hard to try to maintain one on one interaction and we’re very good at backing each other up. If a student can’t reach his or her adviser and contacts me, I will fill in. The faculty members talk about advising and share information about veterinary schools and advising. I think we encourage student-faculty interaction and do our best to make connections with students.”
The closeness that alumni of the program feel toward it can be seen in the fact that every year, UD graduates who are now enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine come back and participate in a panel talk for the animal science club with advice for applying to veterinary school and discussions about their experiences in veterinary school.
Veterinary school applications
To help current students with the process for applying to veterinary school, the department worked with Christy Mannering, communications specialist in CANR, to set up a website that takes students through the four-year process of applying to veterinary school.
The animal and food sciences faculty advisers help the students with the intensive and detailed application process for veterinary school by providing recommendation letters, reviewing their personal statements and sharing their knowledge about the application process. As part of the process, students have to document not only their academic program and their academic success but the number of hours they’ve worked while shadowing veterinarians and hours worked interacting with animals.
The application also includes a personal statement and many veterinary schools have follow up personal statements so the whole process involves a lot of writing, which Griffiths said means the students have to make themselves stand out and distinguish themselves from other students.
Griffiths singled out one statement in particular from a student who happened to be a cheerleader at UD. Both Griffiths and Erin Brannick, director of the CANR Comparative Pathology Laboratory and assistant professor in ANFS, told him independently that he should include that piece of information in his essay.
“We both told him to go back and we said, we don’t really care if the admissions committee doesn’t remember your name, but you want them to say, ‘Hey, where’s that cheerleader guy? We want him.’ After revisions, his statement came back equating how being a cheerleader helped him in all the skills he’s developed, such as self-confidence, time management and all those important life skills and professional development skills.”
Twenty-seven University of Delaware students in the beef cattle and sheep production capstone course got hands-on experience this semester on the Webb Farm, learning everything from sheep shearing to pasture rotation as they acquired valuable tools to carry with them in their future agricultural careers.
The course is led by Lesa Griffiths, the T.A. Baker Professor in the University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), who said that capstone courses like these are integral in preparing students for veterinary school and other animal agriculture pursuits.
She also said that because Webb Farm operates like a small scale farming operation on campus, students get real world experience before they graduate.
“We don’t do anything different than a regular sheep or cattle producer would do other than that, in this case, we have 27 students helping and watching over the animals daily. But the lambs and cattle are produced just like any farmer would produce them,” said Griffiths.
This year, around 50 to 55 lambs, were born during the course and Griffiths explained that the sheep are assigned to certain groups of students to care for throughout the semester.
“Any lambs that are born on their watch, they are responsible for their care for the rest of the semester,” said Griffiths. “They ear tag them, they dock their tails, they give them their vaccinations and monitor their growth rate and their health. For those lambs that are born when nobody is watching, we assign them to students.”
Since the students have already taken courses in animal nutrition, animal physiology and animal genetics, among many others, they take everything they’ve learned in the classroom out on the farm during the month that the ewes give birth, working early mornings and evenings with the hope that they get to witness a live birth.
Caitlin Jozwiak, a senior in CANR, said that when the groups made their rotations, they would “make sure that it’s a steady birthing process and if it’s not then, we have the opportunity to go in and assist.”
Under the watchful eye of the farm manager, an instructor and, if needed, a veterinarian, students have the opportunity to help ewes when things are not proceeding normally.
Griffiths said that experiencing a live birth for the first time is an eye-opening experience for the students.
“You can read about it all you want but until you actually watch an animal going through labor and develop the patience to just watch and observe — as well as the skill to know when something is going wrong and at what point you intervene by contacting a veterinarian and what information you would give to the veterinarian. All of that is really hard to put into a textbook,” Griffiths said.
In addition to observing the birthing process of the lambs, the class also had a chance to learn how to shear the sheep, with the wool used to make UD’s Blue Hen Blankets and Yarn.
Jozwiak said that shearing the sheep was a great experience but that it was also hard work.
“It’s very methodical to make sure that you cover the entire animal and it’s not in any direction that will hurt them. It was awesome, but I was also sore the next day from holding them up at all sorts of angles,” said Jozwiak.
The class was shown the proper shearing technique by Larry Armstrong, manager of the Webb Farm, and Scott Hopkins, UD farm superintendent.
Jake Morris, who recently graduated from CANR, said he agreed with Jozwiak that it was fun but hard work.
“It hurts. It’s a backbreaking kind of thing but once you do it like Larry does multiple times a day, on multiple sheep for years and years, you get used to it. The first time you do it, it probably is the hardest to get used to,” said Morris.
Sarah Morrissey, who also recently graduated from CANR, said that the hardest part of shearing the sheep was getting the courage to begin.
“We learned how to press down at the correct angle pretty easily, but everyone was hesitant at the beginning,” said Morrissey, who thought that the process was a little bit easier than what she had expected. “I think we all became nervous once we saw the giant clippers, but the demonstration beforehand was helpful when it came to approaching the task with the proper technique. And since we took turns, no one had to shear an entire sheep, which can become exhausting.”
Griffiths said that learning the proper technique to shear a sheep is integral because not only is the safety of the animal of the upmost importance, but the wool that is being taken is a product that needs to be kept intact.
“You can’t just clip it off because its quality is related to your skill in removing it. In particular, the length of the wool is important and if somebody doesn’t have the correct skill and just did swoops or short swipes or multiple swipes to get to the one quarter inch left on the ewe, you’re destroying the value of the wool itself. So while you have to be very careful about how you handle and care for the animal, you’re actually removing a marketable product and so you have to be very careful with the product also,” she said.
The class also learned about the importance of pasture rotations — moving livestock to different parts of a pasture to allow for its recovery and growth after grazing — something Jozwiak said was great to see firsthand.
“The biggest thing for me to grasp in lecture is this idea of pasture rotations, so when we actually got to go out and corral the animals into a different pasture and you see how far they graze it down and how dead that area gets, and then you move them to this huge grassy area, you see it happening and you see why they do that. Before I thought, ‘It’s grass, it’ll grow right back.’ That was pretty eye opening,” said Jozwiak.
Griffiths said that it’s a goal of hers to show students that beef and sheep production is intimately tied to pasture production.
“The students have to understand something about the biology of the plants that the animals eat and how we carefully match the biology of the animals to the biology of those plants for optimum nutrition,” said Griffiths.
Because the beef cattle calved a bit later in the semester, there was a greater emphasis on the sheep this year and, based on the timing of lambing, the class was able to fit in more sheep labs and emphasize small scale sheep production.
Still, Griffiths said that the skills the students learned with the sheep are transferable to other animals and other aspects of animal agriculture.
“I think the ability to observe the animals and to understand animal behavior, while it is specific to some species, those skills about watching and observing and understanding when something is not quite right I think are transferable,” said Griffiths. “The patience to sit through labor and have the patience to stand back despite wanting to help and understand when it actually is time to intervene is important. Otherwise you should never intervene which goes against a lot of our interest in getting in there and assisting and helping and trying to make it easier for the animals.”
The awards were established in honor of William J. Benton, former CANR associate dean of research and professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS), in recognition of his dedication to graduate education.
Adalsteinsson recently received her doctorate from UD’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and will step into a post-doctoral position at Washington University in St. Louis.
While at UD, Adalsteinsson worked with her advisers Jeff Buler, assistant professor of wildlife ecology, and Greg Shriver, associate professor of wildlife ecology, researching Lyme disease and other pathogens that cause different tick borne diseases.
“The overall theme was looking at how urbanization changes local forest fragments, how those changes affect the disease transmission cycle in the environment, and what that means for human risk of Lyme,” said Adalsteinsson.
Adalsteinsson is looking at how invasive plants, specifically multiflora rose, affect tick populations and the populations of host animals that are important carriers of these pathogens. She said that in terms of tick abundance, forests with a lot of multiflora rose tend to have ticks concentrated in large numbers within those invasive plants. Forests without invasive plants, however, tend to have a larger number of ticks overall than the rose-invaded forests.
“It was a surprising and really interesting result. We did some modeling to figure out what was driving that relationship and we identified other changes to the habitat associated with these invasive plants,” Adalsteinsson said. “The most important one is the loss of leaf litter — all the dead leaves that accumulate on the forest floor. That makes up really important habitat for ticks because they need it to be humid and they evolved naturally to live in that litter layer.”
In the forests that have many invasive plants, the litter is gone, and Adalsteinsson thinks that results in a poor quality habitat for ticks to survive on the ground. Conditions are improved in the invasive plants themselves, and ticks are found aggregated within the plants in those sites.
Forests that have a thick litter layer intact and no invasion support more ticks overall.
When Adalsteinsson looked at the prevalence of the pathogen that causes Lyme disease, specifically looking at the presence of a bacterium in the ticks themselves, the ticks collected from forests with lots of multiflora rose had almost twice as much of the Lyme disease pathogen compared to the ticks from the uninvaded site.
In addition, Adalsteinsson studied mice and fledgling birds in urban landscapes to see how many ticks they were carrying. In some cases, she got tissue samples from the mice to look at what pathogens they were carrying and transmitting to the ticks and looking at which features of the urban landscape might influence the abundance of important disease reservoirs and their interactions with the ticks.
As to her favorite thing about studying at UD, Adalsteinsson said it was the “sense of community within the department and the support among the faculty and students. My advisers and my whole committee have just been fantastic to work with and have helped me and given me a lot of guidance shaping these ideas and figuring out what the important questions are. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of talented undergraduate students and technicians, and that’s really all thanks to my advisers and my committee.”
In addition to Buler and Shriver, Adalsteinsson wanted to thank her committee members Vince D’Amico, a research scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and an adjunct faculty member in CANR, Jake Bowman, chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, and Dustin Brisson, associate professor of biology at the University of Pennsylvania, for all the training and support they’ve provided her.
Of receiving the Benton Award, Rosier said she was “profoundly honored to have received this acknowledgement of my accomplishments while a student here at UD.”
Rosier, who received her master’s degree from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, has been advised by Harsh Bais, associate professor of plant and soil sciences, and her research entailed studying beneficial bacteria that associate with plants – essentially the plant’s “microbiome.”
“We know about, and even use, bacteria to improve plant health. However, we know very little about how a majority of these ‘beneficials’ work. My research focuses on how different bacteria may work together in the environment to protect plants from pests and increase yield,” said Rosier.
With agriculture companies looking towards more natural ways to protect crops and garden plants by using micro-organisms, one current idea is to mix many different types of beneficial bacteria together to enhance their overall benefits to the plants even though bacteria don’t always get along.
“My work is looking into how two common, but very different plant beneficial bacteria interact with each other and how those interactions may impact the plant,” said Rosier. “One of the bacteria I work with, rhizobia, are commercially very important. These are bacteria that live symbiotically inside the roots of certain plants like peas and clover that can take the nitrogen from the air and make it so the plant can use the nitrogen as an essential nutrient.”
Rosier said that the other bacteria she works with, Bacillus subtilis, are very common in soil, but they also live on the plant root and can protect the plant from pathogens. She is looking at whether these two bacteria are better at helping the plant when they are together or if they cancel out each other’s plant benefits.
“My research is showing that there are subtle ways that these two bacteria are interacting with each other that might influence how well they function to help the plant. The Bacillus is capable of disrupting the ability of the rhizobia to ‘talk’ to each other. This is important, since the rhizobianeed to communicate to each other in order to start the process of symbiosis with the plant. Considering that the whole point of using these bacteria together is to enhance plant growth, interactions such as those I have found could have an impact on developing better plant beneficial products,” said Rosier.
As an undergraduate studying for her degree in microbiology, Rosier said she was “fascinated by the concept that these incredible small organisms can have such a profoundly large and positive influence on the environment. We are surrounded by a greater number of helpful and beneficial bacteria than by those that may cause harm. If there is any one message, I’d like to emphasize is that microbes are awesome, not bad.”
Rosier said she would love to continue to pursue research either academically or in an industry position that combines the areas of microbiology and plant health or environmental restoration.
In addition to Bais, Rosier also wanted to thank Janine Sherrier, interim chair in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, for supporting her work and being a cheerleader along the way.
With regards to her favorite memories from UD, Rosier said that it is the little things that have made her experience memorable.
“My colleagues and fellow students in the department, those moments of achievement when an experiment works or getting really interesting results, and engaging in intellectual and challenging discussions with my mentors about my research. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have found myself in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and to have had the opportunity to engage in a research project that I really love and care about,” said Rosier.
University of Delaware professors and students are partnering with Old Swedes Foundation in Wilmington to assist in determining the best way to manage storm water runoff, preserve its historical record, artifacts and buildings, and explore ways to transform the National Historic Landmark into a gathering space for the surrounding community.
Students in Anna Wik’s Advanced Landscape Design Course worked this semester to design landscape architecture plans for the site, which dates to the late 17th century.
“One of the primary issues identified for this site was the need for improved storm water management. In the cemetery, there are areas that are washed out, graves that are collapsed because of water, and a lack of vegetation as a result of erosion and aging tree roots. Rebecca Wilson, the executive director of the Old Swedes Foundation, really wanted to get some solutions in place for these issues,” said Wik, assistant professor of landscape design in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC) in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The students’ ideas for addressing these issues and transforming the space were on display at the annual SpringFest event on April 17, celebrating the rich historical heritage of Wilmington’s 7th Street Peninsula, which includes Old Swedes Historic Site, Fort Christina Park, the Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard and the Copeland Maritime Center. Students set up posters of their work and collected surveys to find out what people in the neighborhood, parishioners and others at the event were looking for in the space.
With that feedback, the students selected a specific area they wanted to focus on for their final project and came up with more detailed plans for that area, which were displayed on Tuesday, May 24, at a public presentation held at the Old Swedes Historic Site.
Hunter Perry, a senior majoring in landscape horticulture and design, said the class visited sites around Wilmington to get a sense of the different issues affecting the urban environment. Understanding the challenges and opportunities present in Wilmington helped the students come up with new ideas for the Old Swedes site.
His poster showed plantings right against the church and large beds of ground cover, such as perennial flowers and annual plantings, that would look attractive as well as manage storm water.
“Right now, storm water is just running along the existing surface, and there’s not much to catch it. I used a number of planting barriers that will allow water to infiltrate and potentially alleviate some of the issues caused by the run off. These plantings could put the water to use and cut down on a significant number of the problems,” said Perry.
Perry said that a great learning experience with the project was being realistic in his plans.
“The foundation has a budget, and obviously isn’t going to be able to put in Belgian block pathways that are a half million dollars. They also don’t want to remove all of the existing trees; many of them are attractive and have historical interest, so I elected to keep all the trees and do minimal site impact,” said Perry.
Another portion of the project was the assessment of existing trees and creation of a conceptual tree succession plan. Tara Trammell, the John Bartram Assistant Professor of Urban Forestry in the plant and soil sciences department, helped the landscape design students measure and record data about the existing trees and gave them tips on preparing a succession plan.
Olivia Kirkpatrick, a sophomore majoring in landscape horticulture and design, said the class researched the history of the site and let that inform what they were doing as they came up with their conceptual designs.
Kirkpatrick said she believes the biggest issue facing the site, other than the physical issues with runoff, is improving its ability to serve the surrounding community.
“In my design, one of the things I added was a larger entryway so that when people are looking in, it seems more inviting,” said Kirkpatrick, who enjoyed the semester long focus of the project because it allowed her and her classmates time to explore a topic that interested them.
“You’ll always find something that interests you and you want to pursue it, but with a lot of shorter term projects, you don’t have that opportunity. With this, we started broad and then we were zeroing in. Having the whole semester to do that research to focus on is just incredible,” said Kirkpatrick.
Old Swedes Foundation
Wilson, executive director of the Old Swedes Historic Site and Foundation, said that the foundation was thrilled to be able to partner with UD on the project.
“They have some wonderful designs. I wish we could afford to do everything that they’re all saying but we’ll at least start with the things that we have to have for the water issues, and they’re coming up with some really good ideas.I’ve always enjoyed working with students and I like the relationship that I have with the University of Delaware. It helps them but it helps me too,” said Wilson.
Wilson said that there is the possibility to incorporate bits and pieces of the students’ ideas and was pleased with the designs to improve the amphitheater.
“It’s not being utilized as much as we would like but we’re planning to do more with it. The city offers some concerts there in the summer. We’d like to do a whole outdoor concert series in the fall with different musicians for the community and we also have a labyrinth out there, so a lot of people come and walk that,” said Wilson.
The project came about when Wik met with Lu Ann De Cunzo, chair and professor in the Department of Anthropology, at a 2015 Summer Faculty Institute session where faculty members from diverse backgrounds were paired to come up with projects that would incorporate their work.
De Cunzo had worked in the spring of 2015 at the Old Swedes site doing an archaeological investigation for the group.
“When the church realized they were having serious drainage problems, they decided they would probably have to install an underground drainage system right outside the foundation of the church but they didn’t know if there were any archaeological remains from earlier in the history of the church, or if there were burials that went right up to the church walls, so we decided to do a course here,” said De Cunzo.
With the 15 students in her Introduction to Archaeological Field Methods class, De Cunzo tested four locations around the church where they were having problems with water penetration. When they did a ground penetrating radar survey to try to see below the bricks, there were several places that showed graves going right up to the walls of the church.
“We tested one area where it showed graves and one area where it didn’t, and we found graveshafts in both locations,” said De Cunzo, who added that they were careful to stop excavation before reaching any human remains. They wanted to give the foundation information that would help them plan to preserve the church but also preserve the landscape and the burial ground.
“Based on the information we found, Anna’s class is trying to provide some design solutions that would not further damage the archaeological record or the cultural landscape of the burial ground, so it’s looking at the whole property as an artifact and not just the building itself,” said De Cunzo.
Ana Ambriz, a junior double majoring in Latin American studies and anthropology, worked on the project with De Cunzo and said that during the dig, they uncovered artifacts from the Lenape Native Americans.
“We thought since it’s a Swedish settlement, we were going to find Swedish artifacts. Turns out, we didn’t just find Swedish artifacts, we actually found a lot of Lenape artifacts in addition to pipe stems and tea cups,” said Ambriz.
Using characteristics and category technique checkpoints, the earliest artifact that they found could date back to 12,000 B.C., a fact that Ambriz thought was particularly interesting.
“I remember the best part was coming home and being like, ‘I found this artifact that’s from 12,000 B.C.’ It was awesome,” said Ambriz.
The Entomology Club at the University of Delaware set up an Insect Carnival Extravaganza on Saturday, May 7, as part of UD Athletics’ Fandemonium event.
The five-table exhibit catered to the Future Hens Club, which is open to children ages 12 and younger, though the club members interacted with the general public as well in an effort to raise awareness on the importance of insects.
The exhibit included an insect zoo, a variety of live arthropods such as tarantulas and cockroaches, and the club handed out milkweed seeds and milkweed plants to help promote monarch butterfly conservation.
Zach Schumm, a senior double majoring in entomology and wildlife conservation and the president of the entomology club, said the group also sold milkweed seeds and plants at Ag Day and used those that were remaining at Fandemonium.
“It’s one of those things that people don’t really promote because they think of milkweed as just a weed that you need to pull and get rid of but it’s the only food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars, so we try to promote it as much as we can,” said Schumm, who added that it was great to be able to connect with an audience that might not otherwise be in an ecological mindset.
“The parents were there, and they have gardens at their homes, so we let them know that this is what we would think of as a weed but it’s really important for insects. Not all the pretty flowers we buy at the store are native and beneficial to us. I think the educational aspect of this really clicked with a lot of people,” said Schumm.
Cassandra Ference, a senior double majoring in entomology and wildlife conservation with a minor in statistical data analytics, is the outreach coordinator for the Entomology Club and helped organize the exhibit. She said the group doesn’t want people to be repelled by insects but to see their integral and important role in providing ecosystem services.
“Insects break down material, like carcasses and leaves, and they’re detritivores, which means that they break down dead material, and basically they work on nutrient cycling for trees and other plants,” said Ference. “They’re food for lots of other animals and birds in our world. They’re also indicators of good water quality. Mayflies, for example, have certain tolerances that they can only survive in good water, essentially.”
Ference also pointed out that pollination services are provided by a wide array of insects.
“That’s probably one of the most important services. That and nutrient cycling are some of the most important ones,” Ference said. “People think bees are the only pollinators but that’s not true. Beetles pollinate, flies pollinate – there are lot of different insects that pollinate.”
Schumm said he thinks connecting research and science with the public is a mission that can have lasting impacts and tangible results.
“I think there’s this gap between people doing research and the public. We can keep publishing all these papers, and that is really important and we’re getting a lot done, but we need to get the public informed and on board, as they can play a huge role in the effectiveness of programs implemented from what we learn from research,” said Schumm.
The majority of the exhibit was geared toward children, and Ference said that the club has worked with area schools in the past.
“We do outreach with schools and a lot of times the schools will call us. I’ve done a few programs where we go out and do a presentation on what an entomologist is, why bugs are important, what an insect is,” said Ference.
Schumm said he thinks it is important to get kids exposed to insects and their importance at an early age.
“I think teaching youth is one of the more important things because kids are really interested in insects and the environment but they don’t get much exposure to it depending on what school system they’re in. Reaching out to the youth and starting with the youth is really important and I enjoy doing it,” said Schumm.
As to how she got involved in entomology, Ference said she wasn’t into insects until she got to UD and took a class with Deborah Delaney, assistant professor of entomology in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology.
“When I started here, I was a wildlife conservation major and I was dreading taking this Elements of Entomology class because I didn’t like bugs, but that class changed everything for me. I immediately added on the entomology major and started doing research with Dr. Delaney. She changed everything for me. I am such a big advocate of insects now,” said Ference.
With graduation right around the corner, Schumm said he plans to work at the United States Department of Agriculture Beneficial Insects Introductory Laboratory located on the Newark Farm. There he will study brown marmorated stink bugs.
He also plans to work more with his company, SchumBug, which provides displays of insects and artwork at birthday parties and at local universities and science centers.
“It’s been tough to keep SchumBug going while I’m in school so, hopefully, after graduation I’m going to spend some time and actually try to see what I can do with it. I really enjoy the teaching aspects of everything, so it’s fun to do,” said Schumm.
During the 2015-16 Academic Year, approximately 1,600 students engaged in education abroad opportunities courtesy of the University of Delaware.
Together, they collectively took in the world’s most breathtaking landscapes and architecture, were exposed to the cultures of more than 35 countries, and got to know the people that call each of these locations “home.” They returned to UD – after just a semester or session away – as citizens of the world.
Participants were encouraged to submit photos in three categories: Landscape, Portraiture, and Impactful Moments. The latter category asked students to dig deep to uncover photos that truly represented their most life-changing and transformational moments abroad.
In addition, students could “Dare to Take Us There” in 60 seconds or less with a short video compilation of their program.
A total of 130 students submitted in excess of 300 photos and videos chronicling life in their host countries. Eleven were chosen as winners of this year’s contest.
This year, 60,000-plus followers of the University of Delaware on Facebook were invited to serve as judges. Voting took place over a three-week period on UD’s Facebook page, where voters were asked to like, love, or react to their favorite entries.
Contest winners were recently honored at the Institute for Global Studies’ “Best of UD Global” celebration alongside Crista Johnson, the 2016 Faculty Director of the Year, the 2016 UD Fulbright Award winners, and the Delaware Diplomats.
Lavender participated in the 2016 Winter Session Animal and Food Sciences Program to New Zealand led by Lesa Griffiths, T.A. Baker Professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Susan Truehart Garey, UD Cooperative Extension agent and state 4-H Animal Science Program coordinator. The study abroad program sought to explore the diverse and efficient agricultural industry of the country, and to address current challenges in the system.
“As a pre-veterinary medicine and animal bioscience major, a lot of the focus in class goes toward animal agriculture and animal health. We participate in active learning on the farm here on campus, and it’s been great getting to learn hands on,” said Lavender. “When provided the opportunity to go abroad and learn about international animal agriculture, I was excited to expand upon what I’d been learning in class to a global level. In New Zealand we learned first person, out on farms and talking to local professionals; I came away from it with an entirely new take on how agriculture works… This has already helped me in my classes this past semester and has given me new things to consider as I work toward becoming a veterinarian.”
Other winners of the contest included Kyle Weinberg, Brian Griffiths, David Litz, Matthew Kantner, Cailin Murphy, Charlotte Vincent, Tyler Roberts, Laura Woodward, Grace Hassler, and Emily Mozal, who ventured to locations including New Zealand, Italy, Fiji, Turkey, Tanzania, France, and Dominica.
“We learned so much and met so many more people then this 59-second video can hold,” she said. “It was the most amazing program of my lifetime.”
To view this video and all of the winning photos in the 2016 Study Abroad Photo and Video Contest, visit the Institute for Global Studies website.
Follow along as IGS shares the story of study abroad and UD Global on Twitter and Instagram. Engage using the hashtag #UDAbroad.
Students who will travel abroad beginning this summer session through spring 2017 are invited to submit their photos and videos in the 2017 Study Abroad Photo and Video Contest. For full details will be added to the Institute for Global Studies website and communicated via email in early fall 2016.
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.
Members of the Wildlife Society Club at the University of Delaware traveled to Camp Blue Diamond in Petersburg, Pennsylvania, last month to take part in the Wildlife Society’s Northeast Student Conclave hosted by Juniata College.
The conclave provided UD participants opportunities for hands-on experiences and networking with fellow wildlife students and professionals, and they said they learned valuable skills that will help as they embark on their future career paths.
Those who participated in the event from UD include Catherine Clark, a senior majoring in wildlife conservation and ecology and treasurer of the Wildlife Society at UD; Melissa Moody, a senior majoring in wildlife conservation and ecology; Emily Slingerland, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR); Aaron Crasnick, a junior majoring in wildlife conservation and ecology; and Lauren Meckler, sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Activities included mammalogy skills and a rocket netting workshops, in which the students learned how to catch a group of birds in order to determine things like sex and age distribution in a population. There was also a trapping techniques course, in which students learned to put ear tags on white footed deer mice, and a mist netting workshop, in which the students caught birds and put bands around their ankles.
There was also a workshop in which a radio tag was applied to a turtle and it was released, with the students having to find it using radio telemetry.
Clark said that the trip was “very hands-on. It gets you exposed to things that you might not be exposed to in the classroom. We got to use handheld GPS devices that you don’t usually get to use in classroom settings and learned a lot of field lab techniques.”
In addition to the hands on-learning, Clark said the conclave also offered great networking opportunities.
“Wildlife conservation is a growing field so I still feel like it’s still pretty small and if they know your face or your name, it gives you those connections in different parts of the United States and not just Delaware,” said Clark.
Since she had gone to the event last year, Clark said that it was great to be able to see familiar faces at the event.
“A lot of people were very recognizable. We hung out with the same people pretty much. It was really easy to get to know other people in your age group in your same field,” Clark said.
As for the learning opportunities afforded to students studying in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at UD, Clark said that Jake Bowman, department chair, provides students great experiences in research techniques and that her ornithology class has been particular beneficial.
“In ornithology, we did a lot of mist netting and catching birds, putting tags on them and learning how to use trackers on birds — things like that, which I feel like you don’t get in just a normal ornithology classroom setting,” said Clark.
The Wildlife Society Club at UD also holds a retreat to allow some of the newer students an opportunity to experience that hands-on learning.
“As a club, we hold a retreat where we ask graduate students and professors to give us little demonstrations on how to do things for younger undergraduates to see, or even if people are thinking about transferring into this program, to give them the opportunity to see what we’re actually about as a wildlife conservation major,” said Clark.
The students had 25 different individual sketching assignments due during their time in Brazil, and their final project is on display in the hallway of the plant and soil sciences department in Townsend Hall. For this project students had to create a montage of five different images that had meaning to them from the program.
“It’s wonderful to teach something like field sketching in Brazil in January where we are outside constantly, the subject matter is fascinating, plants have really bold textures and are interesting to sketch, and we go to lots of gardens. There’s really a great opportunity for students to sketch,” said Barton.
Barton said she first learned field sketching by taking a class taught by Jules Bruck, associate professor of landscape design who has led classes on study abroad programs in the past. Barton has taught the class the last two times they have gone to Brazil and said she is interested in teaching the students how sketching can be used as a tool.
“The process causes you to observe what you’re seeing more carefully and learn more about what you’re seeing than if you took a photograph of it or if you walked by it, so it hones observation skills as well as teaching you how to sketch,” said Barton.
Barton said that this year’s final projects, which were done in pen and ink — with one student using pastels and some using water colors — were “just amazing. The students did such a great job. We had two students who were art students so they already had some of these skills but I had a number of students who had never really sketched before. It was a great group of students.”
The class was made up of students from various disciplines across UD, with students from plant science, food science, wildlife conservation and wildlife ecology representing CANR. Also part of the class were students majoring in chemistry, engineering and English.
Those students who had art experience helped fellow students who did not have much background in art, which Barton said was great to see.
“One art student in particular was really good at, when we had critiques of student’s work, making positive suggestions – probably suggestions I would not have been able to make,” Barton said. “We all learned from her, which I think is just a wonderful environment, when people are learning from each other. We had two neuroscience students, one girl who was already an amazing sketcher, and one guy who had never sketched before in his life but did a great job. It’s really fun.”
Austin Virdin, a junior majoring in landscape horticulture and design who hopes to one day have a career in landscape architecture designing urban blocks, said that it was beneficial to be able to sketch landscapes, tropical plants and streetscapes that contrast sharply with those in Newark and the United States.
He also said that for someone interested in landscape horticulture as a career, learning to sketch is beneficial because “it allows me to see subjects in greater detail. Whether it be a plant that catches my interest or a unique paving pattern, sketching gives me a greater understanding of the subject that I would not have had by just taking a photograph. These are elements I can then bring into a design by just looking through my sketch book.”
Virdin said he enjoyed visiting the Roberto Burle Marx Landscape Design officeand was excited to hear that some of the people they interacted with at the office will be coming to Townsend Hall on Thursday, May 5, at 7 p.m. to speak about the Burle Marx landscape legacy. The speakers are part of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences’ celebration of the new bachelor of science in landscape architecture degree program, a degree in which Virdin has interest.
Virdin said he was excited that the study abroad opportunity arose, as it gave him a chance to see a region of the world he might otherwise have missed out on.
“I had friends who went to England, different places within Europe, and what drew me to the Brazil trip is that Brazil is not somewhere I would’ve gone just on a whim. It was an experience that I don’t think I would’ve had without doing the study abroad and I want to go back because of it,” said Virdin.
When University of Delaware student Emma Charlton decided that she wanted to travel abroad during Winter Session, she was looking for an opportunity that would give her a real-world, hands-on learning experience with animals and also help her make a decision about her future career.
Working with Volunteers for Intercultural and Definitive Adventures (VIDA) in Nicaragua, Charlton not only got the experience working with large and small animals she was looking for, she was also able to figure out what she wants to do when she graduates.
“I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do going into this trip. I kind of wanted to soul search a little bit, and this trip made me realize and help me decide that I want to focus more on the nutrition and medical aspect and not so much the veterinary aspect with regard to animals,” said Charlton.
Charlton, who is majoring in animal and food science in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), traveled to Masaya and Diriamba, Nicaragua, from Jan. 3-13 and worked in a small animal clinic for four days and a large animal clinic for two.
“With the small clinics, we set up in local schools and we brought our own supplies. Things like electricity and running water were a problem so we kind of worked with what we had and we did basic consultations and gave dogs de-wormer. We gave the owners pills to take home, so they could give them to the animals themselves, and then we also spayed and neutered,” Charlton said.
With the large animals, Charlton said she worked with cattle, horses, goats, pigs and sheep, and administered vitamins like B-12 and gave them a de-wormer.
The experience started right off the bat, as Charlton said that the first day, she scrubbed in and was told that she was helping.
“I got to administer shots and I got to be an anesthesiologist, I got to practice sutures in surgery — it was very in depth,” said Charlton. “The first day I was very scared; I’m not going to lie. It was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but the doctor is helping you the whole time, of course, and the second day when I got to assist with surgery, I was ready to go, I felt comfortable, and I was eager to help them.”
As to her favorite part of the trip to Nicaragua, Charlton said it was seeing the owners’ reactions and their gratitude for what she and her group were doing for their animals.
“We also wanted to teach them how to better communicate with their animals and it was nice because we put a collar on their animal and we showed them that they are a part of their family, and they should love and care for them just as much as they do everyone else. Even though there was a language barrier, we all just had a common bond for the animals,” said Charlton.
UD animal science program
That learning experience working with animals is something that Charlton said she also got exposed to while at UD studying animal science.
“Compared to other colleges, we get a lot of hands-on learning right from the start in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences lab the first semester when you’re a freshman. I think that helps a lot of kids to decide right off the bat if they do want to pursue a career with animals or not,” Charlton said.
Charlton said she got interested in animal nutrition in a career development class taught by Mark Parcells, professor in the department.
“That class showed us options outside of vet school of what we can pursue with our major. With animal nutrition, I don’t know if I want to be a generalized but I could either specify in poultry nutrition or equine nutrition, and animal nutrition is an up and coming career,” Charlton said. “It’s getting more and more important. The animals have to eat every day so that’s the basis and the start. If they don’t have good nutrition and diet then their whole performance is going to be affected, so I want to learn more about that.”
For 30 days over Winter Session, 24 University of Delaware students trekked through Tanzania, learning about African cultures and wildlife conservation issues as part of the wildlife conservation study abroad program.
During the next month, the participants saw hundreds of birds and animals such as zebras, elephants, rhinos, gazelles and even a wildebeest migration. They also interacted with three local tribes — the Hadza, the Iraqw and the Maasai — and learned about their cultures.
Bowman said the program was important for the students as they “learned first-hand how other cultures handle wildlife conservation issues. These lessons will impact the decisions they make in their careers. They gained a greater understanding of how difficult conservation decisions can be.”
Laura Manser, a senior majoring in wildlife conservation with a minor in entomology, said she enjoyed “interacting with the tribes and learning how they did everything, and asking them questions just out of pure curiosity.”
From interacting with the Maasai, the students learned about how the tribe’s members are conserving dry season grasslands for their cattle and how those areas are important to wildlife that use the adjacent Tarangire National Park.
Through their interactions with the Iraqw, an agricultural society, the students learned how they are conserving the Nou Forest as a watershed that allows them to grow sustainable crops. The students focused on the economic and ecological value of forests such as the Nou to the Iraqw society.
One of the groups that stood out in particular for some of the students was the Hadza.
Dan Wilson, a junior majoring in wildlife conservation, said it was great to interact with one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer cultures in the world. “They don’t have permanent settlements and they were up for anything. They were fun. They sang and danced with us the last night we were with them. Just in general, they were really awesome people. All of them,” said Wilson.
Carley Gringer, a sophomore majoring in wildlife conservation, ecology and pre-veterinary and animal biosciences, echoed these sentiments, saying it was interesting to see the American students interact with the Hadza.
“They don’t have any material goods. They don’t collect wealth, which is why it’s so hard for them to continue living in this world. Beads are the one thing that they can have that’s theirs, and it was amazing because they made all the girls bracelets and they just gave them to us. I was amazed by that because they were so willing to give away the only thing that they had,” said Gringer.
Manser said it was interesting to learn how the Hadza tracked animals, adding that the students were able to make decorative arrows with the Hadza that they brought back home.
Birding in Tanzania
The students also did a fair amount of birding during their time in Tanzania, on one occasion getting to see the endangered Beesley’s lark at the Engikaret lark plains, the only place in the world where the lark is found.
“There are less than 100 in Tanzania and we saw two of them so it’s kind of cool we could say we saw 2 percent of their population,” said Manser.
They also learned about how community-based conservation is at work, as the local residents manage the area in order to conserve the Beesley’s lark.
Wilson pointed out that although he isn’t a birder, he found the experience enlightening and enjoyed seeing the variety of birds in Tanzania, specifically the giant marabou storks.
“They have a unique appearance. They’re big birds. They probably stand up to my shoulder almost. They’re not pretty birds but they’re memorable. We were in Ngorongoro Crater and when we got to camp, there were a couple dozen of them hanging out,” said Wilson.
The wildebeest migration also served as a great learning opportunity for the students as they focused on how the migration can be conserved and how much of the migration takes place outside of the Serengeti National Park.
“We were in the middle of their migration and that was really cool,” Gringer said. “There were literally hundreds of thousands of them and Prof. Bowman asked us to try to count them to try and get a sense of their population. But when I first saw them all, I thought it was a joke because there were just so many I was wondering, ‘How am I supposed to count this?’ But that was really cool and they’re beautiful animals.”
The students also singled out the Nou Forest as a highlight, with Wilson and Manser both saying they enjoyed jogging through the forest.
Gringer said that using mist nets in the forest in order to catch birds was a great hands-on learning opportunity for the students.
“I was surprised because there were other kids on the journey who had taken ornithology and I hadn’t because I’m a sophomore, so I thought they would just be able to hold the birds and I wouldn’t. But Prof. Bowman taught me how to hold them and passed it to me and it was really cool,” said Gringer.
She also said that one of the most memorable aspects was being caught in a hailstorm in the Nou Forest.
“I was walking back with my one friends and we were laughing through the rain because there was nothing else to do. You can’t complain. You just have to keep walking, and we eventually got back to camp and we all had warm drinks and huddled around the fire. The hard times were really memorable; they’re the good stories,” said Gringer.
Through it all, the students said they felt that a closeness formed within the group.
Manser, who had also gone on a study abroad to Costa Rica, said she didn’t know many people on the Tanzania study abroad prior to leaving and that it was a great experience to bond with everyone.
“I went to Costa Rica last year and I knew everybody that was going, so this was a big change. I actually really liked it because everybody was so nice and I feel like because we were in such rough and hearty conditions, everybody felt the same way so we could bond over different types of experiences,” said Manser.
Gringer, who said she plans on going to Costa Rica next year as part of study abroad, said she was “impressed with the character of all the people who went. I honestly didn’t think there were that many people who would put up with those conditions and not complain and be so positive. Everyone was really great and there were times when everyone was down and we were all exhausted but everyone rallied really quickly and everyone was really supportive of each other.”
Article by Adam Thomas
Video by Nikki Laws
Photos by Andy Bale, Laura Manser and Carley Gringer
The Pacific Crest Trail, a West Coast counterpart to the Appalachian Trail, stretches 2,600 miles from the Mexican to the Canadian border, spanning terrain that ranges from deserts to snow-topped mountains, bare lava fields to thick evergreen forests.
Hikers might spend half a year covering its length, but a group of University of Delaware students is hard at work on a different kind of challenge — distilling the essence of the trail into a 23-by-33-foot exhibit that visitors to the Philadelphia Flower Show can experience in just a few minutes.
“Our goal is to give everyone the sense of actually walking along the Pacific Crest Trail, so with all the variety on the trail, there are a lot of things for us to think about and try to include,” said Greg Heiner, a junior majoring in criminal justice who’s the project manager for the exhibit’s construction. “We’re partnering this year with the Delaware Nature Society, and they’re giving us help with the best way to spread the message of appreciating nature.”
The end result will be on display for the duration of the Flower Show, March 5-13, in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. For more about visiting the show, including hours and ticket information, see the website.
On a recent evening in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Worrilow Hall, Heiner and some two dozen other students were busy sawing and painting plywood for the exhibit’s walls, mounting poster-size photographs depicting scenic views of the trail and making papier-mâché boulders. Some walls were being covered with green chalkboard paint to encourage exhibit visitors to leave a personal message sharing their thoughts about the experience.
Student involved in the project represent a diverse assortment of majors from nearly every one of UD’s seven colleges. Some are working on the exhibit as part of the Design Process Practicum class, taught by Jules Bruck, associate professor of landscape design in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, while others are members of the Design and Agriculture student organization.
“Everyone is so engaged in creating this project and wanting it to be a great experience for the people who will come to the Flower Show,” Bruck said. “I see students who aren’t even taking the class for credit — they’re members of the club — but they come to class just because they’re so enthusiastic about it.”
This will be the sixth consecutive year that an interdisciplinary team of faculty and students is contributing an exhibit to the show, which is the oldest and largest indoor flower show in the world. The show’s theme this year, inspired by the centennial of the National Park Service, is “Explore America.”
At UD, students in Bruck’s class last year came up with the design concept for the 2016 exhibit once the Flower Show announced its theme encouraging exhibitors to draw inspiration from the nation’s parks.
Students chose the Pacific Crest Trail, a designated National Scenic Trail, and made drawings and models of their proposed exhibit, which will be UD’s first walk-through entry in the Flower Show. Bruck’s current class dived into the construction work as soon as spring semester began.
Because the exhibit must be partially disassembled, trucked to Center City Philadelphia, and then reassembled inside the convention center, the class got some expert help from a faculty member accustomed to that kind of process. Stefanie Hansen, associate professor of theatre, has been working with the students to help them construct the kinds of modular, lightweight pieces that are used in set design.
“This is a more interactive exhibit than the ones they’ve done in the past,” Hansen said. “Everything we do in theatre work is built like this, in manageable pieces so it can be moved around and reassembled, so I was able to help them with that process.”
In fact, she said, she hopes more theatre minors get involved in future Flower Show projects at UD because the skills involved are so similar to those used in stage-set design.
As construction proceeds in Worrilow Hall, another key part of the project is flourishing in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ nearby greenhouse. The exhibit’s plant manager, senior horticulture and design major Sarah Morales, has been ordering and caring for the succulents, moss, evergreens and other vegetation that will complete the display.
“This is a flower show, after all, so the plants are the most important part of the exhibit and a major element in how the judges will evaluate us,” Bruck said. “All the plants are sustainably grown, and we want to be able to reuse them after the show closes, so they’re representative of what you’d find on the Pacific Crest Trail but they’re not the exact plants that grow there. We’re using ones that are native to our area, so they can be planted here after the show.”
Morales said she and the team of students working with her have researched the plant life found on the trail and view it as “a source of inspiration” for their choices. They’ve taken that inspiration and used it to develop their own creative ideas for the exhibit.
Like others working on the exhibit, Morales said the project has been time-consuming but highly enjoyable and rewarding.
“It’s such a large event that ends up making an impact on a significant amount of people, and being able to help create that impact is incredible,” Morales said of the Flower Show. “Plus, I’ve made a lot of great friends outside of the College [of Agriculture and Natural Resources] that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.”
Just as the students come from a variety of colleges and majors, faculty assistance with the project, primarily Bruck and Hansen, has been interdisciplinary as well. Anthony Middlebrooks, associate professor of leadership in the School of Public Policy and Administration, and Jon Cox, assistant professor of art and design, worked closely with Bruck on previous years’ Flower Show exhibits, although they were less involved in this year’s project.
Middlebrooks called the project “an amazing opportunity for students” and one that is valuable every year in engaging his leadership students.
This year’s team will transport the exhibit to Philadelphia and set it up to be ready for a special preview show for Pennsylvania Horticultural Society members on Friday, March 4. Students will staff the exhibit throughout the show and, after closing time each night, will water and care for the plants.
When the show ends, the team will bring materials back to campus, and Bruck’s class will continue to meet as students immediately begin planning next year’s exhibit.
“Long-term projects like this encourage and promote interdisciplinary learning among faculty, students and the community,” Cox said. “We all stand to benefit from the unique perspectives presented from the various disciplines involved in this massive undertaking.”
After the University of Delaware’s doctoral hooding ceremony on Dec. 18, Antonette Todd spoke with her two advisers, Nicole Donofrio and Venu (Kal) Kalavacharla, which is not unusual after receiving such a prestigious honor. What was unique about the situation, however, is that the professors came from two different universities, UD and Delaware State University.
Todd had previously completed her master’s degree at Delaware State with Kalavacharla – director of the Center for Integrated Biological and Environmental Research (CIBER) and professor of molecular genetics and epigenomics at Delaware State who holds an adjunct appointment in UD’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) – and went on to work as a research technician in his laboratory.
Knowing that Todd wanted to go on to get a doctorate, but also aware that no such program existed in plant science at Delaware State, Kalavacharla reached out to Donofrio, associate professor of plant and soil sciences at UD, to see if she would be able to assist.
Donofrio and Kalavacharla had worked together on a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant and when they needed someone to continue working on the project, Kalavacharla suggested Todd.
Rust fungus research
Todd’s doctoral research interest was in plant pathology, specifically studying the interaction between the common bean and fungal rust, carrying over the work she did for her master’s degree but looking at it from a different angle.
“The ultimate goal is to find a resistance gene in the common bean,” said Todd.
Rust fungus is a major problem worldwide and while there is some genetic resistance, the pathogen eventually finds a way to overcome the resistance, leaving the researchers back at square one.
The fungus is also difficult to work with as it can only be cultured on actual plants and not on petri dishes.
Todd’s project had to do with trying to figure out the underlying basis of cryptic resistance regions of the bean genome, working with plants that Kalavacharla had found during his doctoral research to understand what genes play a role and the location of important genes involved in the rust resistance response of the common bean.
Along with Kalavacharla and Donofrio, she was guided by UD committee members Randy Wisser, associate professor of plant genetics; Tom Evans, professor of plant and soil sciences; and Adam Marsh, associate professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), who provided support and valuable mentoring along the way.
Todd used next generation sequencing and bioinformatics to try and determine what those genes were and got pretty close, narrowing it down to one well-defined region with a number of genes that look promising. Her work will allow a future student to come in and do their research around figuring out and identifying the magic gene.
“She was successful in pinpointing the region of one of those genes to a base region in the bean genome by a combination of genetics, molecular biology, genomics, and bioinformatics,” said Kalavacharla.
Family, career, doctorate
Todd not only worked at pursuing her doctorate, she also retained her job as a technician in Kalavacharla’s lab and had three children at home to care for, one born during her pursuit of her doctorate, and with a fourth due shortly after completion of her degree work.
“The great thing about the fact that Antonette had a successful Ph.D. experience is that we’ve demonstrated that you can do this even if you have a growing family or a young family – you can maintain your employment status and still get a Ph.D. You just have to be really determined about it and dig your heels in, and that’s exactly what she did,” said Donofrio.
Todd said that she has a “super family” and that as a research technician, her responsibilities include “everything from helping the post-docs out with their research, to mentoring our undergraduate and graduate students. We have a lot of students that work in our lab so it’s taking them through the process and holding their hands sometimes.”
Kalavacharla said Todd is a “wonderful person to work with and is calm and has a great sense of humor. She is very passionate about genetics, molecular biology, and agriculture. She is a very talented and intelligent person who has made it her mission to be a great mentor and a teacher. She strives to bring about the best in the people that she has mentored in research, be they graduate or undergraduate students. She has mentored many undergraduate and graduate students at DSU.”
Of working with Donofrio, Todd said she is “awesome. She’s very supportive. I like her laid back style, which makes her very approachable. Her wealth of knowledge on plant-pathogen interactions is immeasurable.”
She also said that being co-advised by people at both universities was the best of both worlds. “Kal (Kalavacharla) has played an enormous role in my success not only a graduate adviser, but also by providing mentorship for real life issues such as managing family, school, and work.”
“I think I’m the first, at least from the College of Agriculture and Related Sciences at DSU – I’m not sure if they’ve done it at any of the other colleges from Delaware State but definitely from this college it was the first collaboration between DSU and UD for a Ph.D.,” said Todd.
Donofrio said she is hopeful that UD and Delaware State can have more such collaborations in the future and that it shows that individuals who really want to get their doctorate but still want to keep their jobs can do both.
“We demonstrated that people, if they’re determined about it and if they really want it, we can pave a way for them to keep their employment and get a Ph.D. That Kal and I were able to successfully co-advise her to completion was a good thing,” said Donofrio.
Kalavacharla said that Donofrio “is a very good friend and a respected colleague. It has been a wonderful partnership. Nicole and I share a common passion of training students and the next generation in biology and agriculture. We also recognize that although the University of Delaware and Delaware State University are two different institutions with distinct missions, there is common ground that can help serve the state of Delaware. Educating students and bringing about the best in individuals such as Dr. Antonette Todd is a wonderful outcome of this shared interest.”
Todd said that for anyone out there looking to get their Ph.D., the biggest piece of advice is to have patience.
“Have patience with yourself and have perseverance. Keep your eye on the goal, that’s the biggest thing,” said Todd.
From therapeutic gardens to facilities promoting healthy foods, University of Delaware students in an interdisciplinary landscape design course accepted an “Activating Outdoor Space Challenge” this semester.
The challenge was designed by Jules Bruck, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), and it asked students to create better spaces on the UD campus.
The student teams presented their work Thursday, Dec. 3, in the Health Sciences Complex Atrium on the Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus.
Bruck said the focus of the fall semester course was “landscape architecture foundation concepts, like how to build community and how to design with an eye for nature, ecological design.”
The course also considered “how to craft space that the community would want to use in terms of spatially designing something that has great form, and productive use of land,” she said.
The students, who were drawn from five of UD’s seven colleges and represented 18 different majors, ranged from freshmen to graduate students. They worked on the project for a majority of the semester.
Bruck said this was especially interesting for the freshmen who, along with the rest of the class, had to make a presentation to a team of engineers from Fore Sites Associates in New Castle as part of their first design challenge to create floating wetlands that could enhance water quality.
“How would you like to be, in the first semester of your freshmen year, put into a class where three weeks into the semester you are presenting in front of engineers off campus? It’s really a unique opportunity for them,” said Bruck.
For their final project of the semester, the class was split up into eight groups with projects focused on topics such as how to provide healthier food options, how to create a space that can generate ongoing revenue, how to design an outdoor space demonstrating the variety of agriculture and natural resources taught in CANR, and how to create an outdoor space that demonstrates the variety of therapeutic and healing methods and resources taught and administered at the STAR Campus, among others.
The students were able to choose the project, as Bruck wanted them to “self-select teams in a way that they were able to work on a project that really interested them.”
Among the eight projects that were presented, the Healthy Eating Group proposed a Blue Hen Barn in a field near Worrilow Hall that would offer healthier eating choices and increase awareness of what CANR has to offer as far as fresh vegetables, wool and honey.
“For getting actual food into the Blue Hen Barn, we were thinking of partnering with Newark Natural Foods and the UD Dining staff, which is doing a great job in incorporating healthy foods into UD’s diet,” said Elizabeth Omenitsch, a senior in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.
The second level of the Blue Hen Barn would have a kitchen where the students suggested CANR could have classes. “It would be a good way to use the food grown on South Campus in a natural cooking environment. We talked to the ag students and the HRIM (Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management) majors who are cooking at Vita Nova, and this kitchen could be a cool change of scenery for them,” said Omenitsch.
She also added that the group came up with the idea of having Blue Hen Barn be equipped with a patio space outside where people could do yoga or have meditation classes.
Another group worked on a therapeutic garden. Using a Facebook survey, as well as an in-person survey in the STAR atrium aimed at UD students, faculty and staff, the group learned that most people thought that mental health therapy would be best served by a therapeutic garden.
People said that “beautiful scenery” and “open space” are key, and students found that “getting outside is a huge motivating factor for people to work harder and enjoy the therapy more, thus leading to better outcomes,” said Nick Limminia.
The group also spoke with UD professionals to get their thoughts on the project and, following those talks and incorporating other feedback received from the campus community, they decided on the theme of universal access for the garden.
“With this theme we had two major goals. The first was to use plants themselves as tools for therapy and the second was to use gardening as a tool for therapy. With both of these goals in mind, we’re hoping to target mental health therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy, as well as other types of therapies on the STAR Campus,” said Samantha Nestory, a master’s degree student in CANR.
The group proposed installing the garden to the left of the STAR Campus atrium and came up with a curvilinear and circular theme to emphasize the naturalness of the space, which would feature extra wide paths to be navigable for people with wheelchairs and other assisted mobility devices.
The most important part of the design was accessibility of planters for a garden bed, an herb garden and flower beds, which would be built to different heights in order to be available for use by everyone, Nestory said.
The garden would also have planters geared toward the senses with lowbush blueberry bushes and vegetables grown for taste, spicebush for smell, chenille plant and lambs ear for touch, and false blue indigo, with seed pods that rattle when they dry, for sound.
“You can really target a lot of senses with these plants,” said Nestory.
University of Delaware student Weber Stibolt recently received a scholarship for food safety auditing from the Food Marketing Institute Foundation and was given the opportunity to travel to Indianapolis to take part in the Safe Quality Food Conference.
Stibolt, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said he was honored to be one of 10 scholarship recipients from across the country and that the conference was a great opportunity to network and learn from industry professionals.
“It was one of the most well organized, most thoughtful, very engaging conferences that I’ve ever been to. They had all sorts of workshops for every single sector of food. They had different roundtable sessions and breakout sessions that you could go to, and general speakers for everyone to listen to,” said Stibolt.
One of the highlights of the conference for Stibolt was hearing from one of the writers of the Food Safety Modernization Act and getting her views on the act’s requirements.
“That’s a very important piece of legislation coming out for a lot of food safety people, including manufacturers and auditors. Food safety is definitely taking off, and it’s going to be a huge industry to go into very soon,” said Stibolt.
Stibolt said the event provided a great networking and learning opportunity with close to 700 people from across the country attending the conference.
“Every single food company that you can think of was there, and it was valuable to network with them,” said Stibolt.
As for his favorite part of the conference, Stibolt said that it was great to meet the other scholarship winners and to see what they are doing and hear about their interests.
“I was actually the youngest scholarship recipient there. Most of them were graduate level students. It was interesting to see the work they’re doing, how they got into graduate research, and what they want to do with that in the future,” said Stibolt.
Food safety internships
Stibolt received the scholarship because of his interest in going into food safety as a career and also based on food safety internships that he completed the past two summers, one with Magee Farms and one with Kenny Brothers Produce in southern Delaware.
At Magee Farms, Stibolt helped the company with its food safety plan and found that he really enjoyed helping put it together.
“I loved doing mock audits and improving their food safety measures at the farm level. That was very interesting to me. It takes a very certain type of person to be able to do food safety, very Type A, by the book, everything has to be perfect. Because, if not, then you fail the audit and won’t be able to sell your produce,” said Stibolt.
Stibolt said that a mock audit involved making sure that the farm met a certain set of guidelines.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into any sort of food safety manual. It’s very tedious but also very important because if you don’t document it, it doesn’t happen. You could be following food safety practices but if you’re not writing it down and adequately monitoring it, then it’s worthless. So making sure all those records were in the manual and making sure that everything was to a ‘T’ was very important,” said Stibolt.
With Kenny Brothers Produce, a cucumber processing facility in Bridgeville, Stibolt also spent time working with food safety.
“Their purpose was to sort cucumbers by sizes and then ship them out to pickle manufacturers. It was interesting to see the food safety that’s involved in that – the handling of the produce, the safe packing of the produce, making sure that all the standards were met and all the procedures were being followed,” said Stibolt.
After graduating, Stibolt said he wants to go into quality assurance or some sort of food safety job to help manufacturers make sure they are producing safe, quality food.
“Safe food is something that I think is really worthwhile. If I can prevent an outbreak from happening because of what I’m doing in the plant to make sure we’re following food safety measures, it’s really worthwhile to me and it’s very rewarding to be able to have a direct impact on the food supply of the country,” said Stibolt.
Wik, assistant professor of landscape design in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said the purpose of the benches is to help create a central gathering space within the garden.
“The ELI garden has all sorts of workshops throughout the fall and spring semesters and they wanted benches that could be moved around so they could use that space a little more functionally. Right now, they don’t have any seating within the garden, or any potting space,” said Wik.
Kate Copeland, an instructor at ELI and the ELI Community Garden liaison, said that the operative word in the garden is “community.”
“The challenge was this – we have a garden but we don’t have a space in the garden where we can actually congregate as a community. People want to sit down, take a break, and enjoy the space in the garden, in addition to working on garden tasks,” said Copeland. “We wanted to create a gathering space inside the central area of the garden where we could just sit and talk with each other.”
Wik said that the pocket seating benches, which were designed by the class, are of varying sizes – 36 inches, 24 inches and 18 inches – and can be stacked under one another to make for convenient storage. They also can collapse and be put away for winter, and the design allows for multiple uses. The tallest one can actually be used as a table.
Sarah Morales, Rob Phipps, Hunter Perry, Matt Tjaden and Austin Virdin, all students in CANR, were the class members who took the initial idea from concept through documentation, and ultimately helped the ELI students to assemble the final product. The landscape construction materials course focuses on the interface between drawing and building, and this project was an opportunity for the students to focus on creating really clear graphics, without resorting to a lot of text to explain the process.
The project also gave ELI students a chance to interact with UD students in a hands-on, project based activity where they had an opportunity to practice their English language skills.
“It gave the ELI students an opportunity to interact with native English speaking UD students, which is often a challenge for them,” said Copeland who explained that in addition to teaching English grammar and vocabulary, the ELI also works to acculturate international students to the UD academic and social environment.
“There are lots of soft skills that we teach them in addition to the language that they’re learning, and the best way to do that is to give them opportunities to integrate with students and teachers in the larger UD campus,” Copeland said. “This was just one example of the opportunities we try to create to collaborate with other UD students, which is sometimes an unfamiliar experience for them.”
To facilitate the interaction, the benches were color coded, which gave Wik’s students the chance to visually represent the task so that the ELI students, of all different levels of language proficiency, could understand and participate in the project.
Wik’s students presented their design and had their materials all prepared for the 25 students who arrived to hear the presentation and get involved with the actual construction of the seating.
“The agriculture students gave directions and explained their process and talked about why it was important, and the ELI students were given the opportunity to ask questions. Anna and I facilitated as needed,” said Copeland.
Copeland added that the event was a success and that she is excited about potential future collaborations between the ELI Community Garden and the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.
“This was basically a beginning, just bringing the materials class over to the garden and engaging them with our international students. Anna and I are very excited to see where it could go and we hope to have many other projects in the wings,” said Copeland.
About the Community Garden
The ELI Community Garden was started five years ago by a UD student organization with funding from the University’s Sustainability Task Force. Its mission, through the Food and Garden Policy Committee, has been to engage students and faculty across the University in learning experiences that explore sustainable best practices in gardening and food production.
Members of the UD community can rent beds for a very small fee with the stipulation that they participate in community events to which international students are invited. Some ELI garden beds are also dedicated to service learning projects that produce food for charitable organizations such the Food Bank of Delaware.
Copeland said, “through content and project based learning, the ELI Community Garden offers marvelous English language development opportunities for the 700 plus international students that we teach in our intensive English program”
The first students to receive minors in equine science graduated from the University of Delaware this spring, and with dedicated faculty members and state of the art facilities for both laboratory and field work, the minor is off and running in its second year.
The equine science minor, housed in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), was created through a generous gift from Stuart M. and Suzanne B. Grant of Greenville, Delaware. The couple have operated a horse breeding and racing enterprise since 2001, and in 2009, Stuart began taking animal sciences courses at UD.
“We want students to be proud of where they are 10, 20 years from now,” says Grant, who is also a member of the University’s Board of Trustees. “And when you look at the education and opportunities these kids are getting here at UD, you know they will be.”
Part of those opportunities are ones Grant has helped create. In addition to providing the funds to establish the minor, the Grants’ C-Dog Farm, a foaling facility that also has thoroughbreds and mares, in Chesapeake City, Maryland, will welcome students this spring to be involved in caring for mares and foals.
Amy Biddle, assistant professor of animal and food sciences, said the students will be doing their senior capstone course at the farm and that Grant has been “very generous in making that farm not only accessible for students, but retrofitting it with video cameras and viewing rooms to make it a place for students to come and learn.”
Biddle serves as the instructor for the minor along with Annie Renzetti, a supplemental professional in the department. The two instructors complement each other nicely, with Biddle serving in a research role and Renzetti bringing a wealth of clinical experience.
“Amy and I get along awesomely and she’s very much in the gut microbe research bent, which is fascinating to me. I’m a little bit more real world veterinary, in there slogging it in the trenches with the horses,” Renzetti said. “The two-prong approach is neat because you’ve got the laboratory for people who want to pursue a lab internship path, and I’m there for more of veterinary information, the whole horse picture.”
“Dr. Renzetti brings a wealth of clinical experience and a real enthusiasm for teaching,” Biddle said. “She has an incredible amount of information but also connects well with students, so she’s just a fantastic teacher.”
The minor, as well as individual courses, are open to students from across the University.
“From everybody who’s never seen or touched a horse to people who have a passing interest, all students are welcome – and it’s not just welcome to the minor but the different classes, as well. I really see it as a way to get some science classes in if you’re a music major or an economics major. It’s a friendly science program,” said Renzetti.
Biddle added that one of Grant’s missions was to make the program accessible to anyone at UD.
“It’s really important to his mission to involve students as much as possible and that the minor be attracting students from a wide range of the University, because there’s strength in that,” said Biddle.
The two instructors added that Delaware’s location is ideal for an equine science program.
“Delaware is uniquely situated for horse research and education because we have so many different equestrian activities close by. Besides thoroughbred and standardbred racing at Delaware Park and Dover Downs, we have Fair Hill Training Center, with amazing facilities for race training, veterinary care and therapy, as well as Fair Hill International which hosts a wide range of competitive events, from eventing to endurance. UD’s backyard is rich with horse activity in every direction,” said Biddle.
Renzetti added, “Delaware is centrally located for many equine pursuits, not to mention the ones we have in and of ourselves at UD, and being so close to University of Pennsylvania with their New Bolton Center and being able to tap into that wealth of knowledge is just awesome.”
Elizabeth Vacchiano is one of the students who graduated in May with a minor in equine science and is hoping to one day have a career in the equine field.
She said that the minor did a great job of combining in-class course work with hands-on experiences in the field, culminating with a capstone course where she and her group had to create an equine business.
“My group created a therapeutic riding center and we had to go through every single step of creating a business. We had to think about everything from the pastures, the diseases our horses could have, the vaccinations, the zoning laws concerning how to keep horses, nutrient management, every single little step, and I really enjoyed it,” said Vacchiano.
She also had the opportunity to do a foaling internship at C-Dog Farm and her pasture management class was able to take samples and evaluate the pastures at the farm.
“I loved learning all about it in class, theoretically putting it together and then being able to actually go out and do it. I feel so prepared to go out and know what I’m talking about because I did it,” said Vacchiano.
Vacchiano said she is grateful to the farm manager and assistant farm manager at C-Dog Farm for taking the time out to answer any questions that she had, and she hopes to one day be in charge of a facility that allows her to teach University students much like she was taught.
Vacchiano said the minor covers all aspects of horse health, and that she enjoyed the plant science classes and the behavior classes, andthat the minor is science based which is incredibly important for a young person going into the equine industry.
“You’re taking other science classes that aren’t just about horses. That is something that I think a lot of people forget about. The animal is obviously very important but what’s going into that animal? What’s in your pastures, and your water, and your hay quality? There’s a lot of important things that this minor is going to show you,” said Vacchiano.
Vacchiano said anyone interested in research should look into getting involved with the industry.
“The equine industry is an untapped area for research. There are so many more things that we can learn and we can discover, so many questions that we don’t have answered, and it would make the industry so much better if we had those answers,” said Vacchiano.
“I like it down here. It’s quiet and calm, a small, more intimate environment,” said Ackon who is also looking to minor in computer science.
Over the summer, Ackon had a chance to participate in the Summer Scholars Program where he was able to conduct research on Biased Shuffling Markov Chains with Nayantara Bhatnagar, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, and Katie Harper, a graduate student.
Markov Chains are models that describe a sequence of possible events in which the probability of each event depends only on the state attained in the previous event. Ackon said that Markov Chains are used for a number of different applications, such as to simulate the stock market or explain certain physical and biological phenomena.
Ackon said that he enjoyed working with his mentors on the project.
“I gained a lot of knowledge from the mentorship I had with Dr. Bhatnagar and Katie Harper. They have been in my situation before so they gave me advice on what classes to take and what I should do in the future, such as graduate school or going into the industry, so I really appreciate them. I got in contact with a lot of other faculty members, too, and they were very friendly people,” said Ackon.
As for his favorite part of statistics, Ackon said that he likes that it is a mathematical field with tangible results.
“I knew I liked math and it was something I wanted to do but when I was researching it, a lot of it seemed too abstract, too conceptual and I wanted to do something that I could apply to my day-to-day life. If I go into the business industry, I could apply it to financial activities or even the economy so that’s why I chose statistics,” said Ackon.
Ackon also said that he likes working with data and enjoys how statistics works with trends that have an impact on everyday life.
“If you think about it, we’ve always had data, even dating back to early civilizations like Egypt. They probably tracked the hours that went by to determine when it would be day and night. Then they did even more advanced calculations to find out what month it was and that progressed into seasons. Using this data, they were able to determine when the Nile flows rapidly or slowly and they needed to do this because agriculture was a big part of their survival. These days, we have a lot of data and we want to use it for our own personal gain. So I think that’s the biggest part, it influences a lot of people,” said Ackon.
The University of Delaware’s equestrian team is in the midst of another busy season with competitions and practices spread out across the fall.
The team competes as part of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) and faces off against schools such as Temple University, Salisbury University, the University of Pennsylvania, Villanova University and Valley Forge Military Academy, where most of the shows are held.
Students involved with the equestrian team come from all across UD and anyone is welcome to join no matter their level of horse riding experience.
“We’re from all over. We have people who’ve competed nationally and done really well and made money and have been really successful. Then we also have beginners. One of my best friends, she started riding last year, never rode before and she fits right in. Anyone can ride if they just have an interest in horses but never actually rode; it’s a great way to get into it. It’s a big group of people who just love horses and we all get along because we all have that common thing,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt also said that riding with the equestrian team is a lot cheaper than riding and showing a horse on one’s own.
“It is still kind of expensive paying for lessons every week but if you were just to compete on your own horse, you’re shelling out at least $200 a day on the competition and then for us, it’s $30 to compete so it makes competing affordable for college students,” said Schmidt.
Schmidt said the fall is the busiest time of year because of the number of competitions, each of which is hosted by a different school. That school is responsible for setting up the show, receiving entries from all the schools that are competing and getting the horses ready — though sometimes teams are requested to bring their own horses.
At the shows, individuals are placed in different levels based on their riding experience and skill level. Participants then pick a name out of a hat and that’s the horse that they ride.
“You don’t get to warm up or practice or anything. The host school gets the horses all ready, then you pick your horse randomly and you get on and go compete. So you’re getting on something that most likely you’ve never ridden unless you’re a senior and you see a lot of the same horses,” said Schmidt. “You’re riding something you’re not used to, you’re thrown into a situation where you have to act quick on your feet and it really tests you as a rider to see how adaptable you are to what you’re given. It’s really interesting.”
Schmidt said that this year is going great and at the team’s first competition, UD came in third and had a lot of individual riders get first place ribbons.
English and Western
The equestrian team is comprised of about 80 members that are split up into two different teams: an English team and a Western team.
Schmidt said that the English team is the larger of the two, with about 80 percent of the members participating on the English team.
The English team members wear hunt seat attire — tan pants, a blazer, white collared shirt, with their hair up and a helmet — and are judged based on their equitation.
“Basically equitation is how well you ride the horse and how good you look doing it,” said Schmidt.
The Western team is pretty much the same, but their attire is different and what they make the horses do is a little bit different as well.
“They wear black pants, black shirts, and hats. The Western team competes in horsemanship and reining, while the English team competes in hunter seat equitation and jumping,” said Schmidt.
The two teams also practice in different locations with the English team practicing in in Townsend, Delaware, and the Western team practicing in Westhampton, New Jersey.
The English team is coached by Whitney Carmouche and the Western team is coached by Amy Freeman.
The team is co-advised by Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS), and Amy Biddle, assistant professor in ANFS.
University of Delaware student Kristen Rauch spent her summer interning with Bright Spot Urban Farm in Wilmington as its mobile market manager, providing fresh food for truck delivery at stops around the city.
She said Bright Spot Urban Farm, which is a part of Bright Spot Ventures – a program designed to give former foster care youth real-world employment experience – is located off Route 13 in the city and includes a half-acre of arable land and a greenhouse.
“We grow and harvest everything that’s in season and because we have about eight markets a week. Whatever we can’t grow, we’ll supplement with things from the Amish auction in Oxford, Pennsylvania, and also from plots up at the community garden at Rodney Reservoir in Wilmington,” said Rauch.
As the mobile market manager, Rauch harvested crops on the farm, washed and banded the items, and then put the harvested products in a refrigeration unit on a truck that was driven around to mobile market stops.
“The mobile market is basically a food truck from which you sell produce. We set up tables, bring the produce out of the truck and set it up on the tables. Then people can come and buy the produce straight from us,” said Rauch. “We have a farmer’s market on Thursday nights and we bring the truck to that.”
Rauch worked along with Alexandra Keith, a CANR junior who worked this summer as the farm manager at Bright Spot, and her internship had a research component to it, as well.
Rauch said she is writing her senior thesis and, while it is still evolving, it started as a study focused on consumer accessibility to fresh food.
“As a mobile market, we were able to go into areas that might not have access to fresh food and we were able to sell and provide cheap produce. It was all about accessibility and comparing the demographics of who comes to the market and what they’re looking for, or whether they’re comfortable preparing the foods,” said Rauch.
Her thesis has now added a food literacy component to it. “There is this huge disconnect with people buying produce and knowing how to grow it or where it comes from, and basically why all those things are important. It’s crazy that we put these things in our bodies and we don’t know where they come from,” said Rauch.
Rauch, who had previous experience working at Valley Road Produce and Flowers in Elkton, Maryland, said she enjoyed the interactions she had with people, both the customers and especially her co-workers at Bright Spot.
“The social service mission of Bright Spot is that it empowers youth transitioning out of foster care and it provides them with basic job skills and employment so that they can find future employment in either agricultural or non-agricultural fields,” said Rauch. “As far as the mobile market goes, we teach them customer service skills and financial skills, maybe counting change at the end of the day and maintaining the books for that. On the farm you learn that you have to be there at a certain time and even when it’s hot you have to work hard, so you gain a valuable work ethic.”
As a natural resource management and agriculture and natural resources double major, Rauch said she is eventually hoping to have a career involved with social equity and sustainability.
“What’s cool about natural resource management is that there’s the economics side to it, and so I think the only way you can convince enough big business and people in the world to actually care about the environment is by appealing to their economic side. You have to consider the human aspect, too, and the benefits across the board,” said Rauch. “I believe in making local natural resource use more sustainable and equitable, and that communities and the world need to be considered when implementing policy or sustainability efforts.”
The 171 new students enrolled in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented spider plants to care for throughout their academic careers as part of the college’s academic orientation held Aug. 31 in the Townsend Hall Commons.
The plant presentations were part of CANR’s inaugural “Do More than Learn…Grow” challenge, and the individual whose plant flourishes the most will be awarded a $250 gift card at the college’s convocation in May 2019.
“Recently, The Wall Street Journal cited agriculture and natural resources as a top 10 major regarding college enrollment growth nationwide,” said Mark Rieger, dean of the college. “Students come to CANR seeking a rewarding college experience that will enable them to grow in a variety of ways. Our new ‘Do More Than Learn…Grow’ challenge captures this very spirit. I am looking forward to seeing a number of new CANR students, as well as their plants, flourish and thrive over the next four years.”
Kim Yackoski, senior assistant dean of student services at CANR, said that in addition to supplying the students a decorative plant for their residence hall rooms or homes, the gift and accompanying challenge also provided a way to help students feel connected to the college.
“The name ties into the tagline on our college website and it’s a unique new tradition to welcome our undergraduates and help them feel connected to our college,” said Yackoski. “College is a time not only to learn but to grow, so I thought we could tie the whole plant idea into that theme.”
The spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) were donated by the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) through cuttings of other plants already established by Bill Bartz, greenhouse manager, and his staff during the summer in the Fischer Greenhouse.
The plants are expected to grow up to two feet tall, and this increase in size may require them to be re-potted.
“Once they get bigger, re-potting them will help them flourish even more,” said Yackoski.
She added, “Word has definitely gotten out about the plants. I’ve already heard from an upper class plant science student who wants to help coordinate a re-potting get-together in a year or so for anyone who would want to re-pot their plants.”
Yackoski said that Valann Budischak, volunteer and education coordinator at the UDBG, stopped her in the hall one day with the idea and it grew from there.
“I want to especially thank Valann for stopping me with the initial idea of giving students plants and to Bill Bartz and his team in our UD Greenhouse for generously donating the plants. UDBG volunteers planted 175 plants for us and also assisted every step of the way,” said Yackoski.
As for how the students reacted to the plants, Yackoski said that it was very positive.
“They loved them and were excited. At first I was worried because when they left Townsend Hall, they were heading to other planned events on campus for new students before heading back to their rooms and I thought it might be a pain to carry the plant around. But they said, ‘No, we love this. This is no problem. We’re going to head back to our residence hall first and drop it off.’ They loved it,” said Yackoski.
Yackoski said the challenge was a great example of the new ideas that blossom at CANR.
“I love working in a college where our faculty, staff and students are down to earth — no pun intended — and are always thinking up new ideas and interesting challenges or are up for a challenge,” said Yackoski.
Recent University of Delaware graduate Radhika Samant always envisioned herself beginning her career in the environmental field but when she was offered a job to work at Thomson Reuters in New York City following Commencement, the opportunity was too good to pass up.
She will shadow current specialists and meet with clients and guide them through the process of using the company’s products and services, all the while getting feedback from those clients and reporting it back to the firm.
“I will be the face of Thomson Reuters for our clients,” said Samant who added that although the job isn’t directly in the environmental field, she is thrilled to work for a company that takes initiatives to be environmentally friendly.
“They truly embody those green principles, so I’m excited to be working for a company that’s more green in its vision than others,” said Samant.
Another thing that has Samant excited is the fact that she will be living in New York City with an office in Times Square.
“It will be overwhelming coming from a small town in Delaware – and Delaware will always be my home – but I’m excited to explore the city and have a new beginning,” said Samant.
Rigorous job application
As for the application process, Samant explained that she was chosen out of a field of over 800 applicants nationwide, although she didn’t know the job was that competitive when she initially applied.
“I had no idea there were 800 applicants for the New York office – they’re also launching the client specialist associates program in Chicago and Toronto – and they narrowed it down to a couple hundred for a video interview,” said Samant, adding, “I’m glad I didn’t know how competitive it was because I kind of just put my best foot forward.”
After the video interview, Thomson Reuters narrowed the field to 36 finalists and Samant traveled to New York City for an all-day interview process that involved group and individual activities.
“I had to prepare two pitches beforehand and had individual interviews, and they observed us doing group scenario work, so it was definitely the most difficult interview I’ve done. But I really liked it because it gave you a lot of opportunity to explain why you’d be good for the job,” said Samant.
Samant said that there were around 19 client specialist associates hired in all of North America, with 10 of the new hires in the New York office. She expects that the new associates will be working as a team until they start getting their own individual clients.
For UD students who will be graduating and entering the world of work, Samant said her best advice is to use the University Career Services Center’s Blue Hen Careers system, to take advantage of the opportunities given to them by the UD faculty, and to keep an open mind.
“Blue Hen Careers is where I found most of the jobs that I applied to. I found this one on Blue Hen Careers and I would say that you should just apply for anything,” Samant said. “If you think you’re under qualified or even overqualified or if you think it’s a job that you hadn’t considered before, just apply everywhere and keep your ears and eyes open. Just be persistent and don’t get discouraged at all.”
She praised the assistance offered by UD faculty members, citing Steven Hastings, professor and associate chair of APEC. She said professors are “always helping you out, and sending you different job postings – it will be fine.”
Samant said she interviewed and applied for different jobs throughout her senior year, and was surprised at how difficult it was to find a job.
“Thomson Reuters was the first job that I interviewed for right after I graduated and it was the one I ended up getting. I feel very lucky and I’m really excited,” said Samant.
Being active with internships was also key for Samant, who did an internship each summer as an undergrad at UD – one in entrepreneurial studies, one with APEC professor Tom Ilvento and one with the Delaware Water Resources Center.
Samant also said that having the double major allowed her to get exposure to the world of economics and the environment.
“I think with an economics degree, it’s not as specific so it leaves a lot of room to study what you want to study,” she said. “Not only did I study economics in depth but I also got to take those concepts and apply them to natural resource management and environmental issues. That’s something that I could take either way – I could go down the environmental route or go down the business route, it’s an intersection of both so I think that it was really cool to have that.”
She also said she enjoyed studying in APEC.
“I feel like faculty in this department actually know their students by first name, which is hard to find in a lot of bigger universities. But Dr. Hastings has helped me with everything from classes to internships to jobs. He really had a huge impact on my college career, and the entire faculty was great.”
In addition to Hastings and Ilvento, she cited Joshua Duke, professor of food and resource economics, economics and legal studies, who she said was a favorite.
“Everyone in the department is really great,” said Samant.
University of Delaware undergraduate student Brian Griffiths is spending his time this summer with sharks, eagle rays, massive corals, turtles and schools of endangered fish as he conducts underwater research on seagrass in the Caribbean at the Central Caribbean Marine Institute (CCMI) in the Cayman Islands.
“This species of seagrass is known to be able to change its morphology based on its environment, and I think this new form may be due to differing sediment characteristics,” said Griffiths, who takes 8-inch cores of seagrass out of different lagoons on the island and dissects them to count meristems – the tissue of a plant containing undifferentiated cells – and the number of shoots.
Griffiths also takes and analyzes sediment cores from the locations to determine what they are made up of and their thickness. He is hoping to find a correlation between the occurrence of the strange seagrass and the properties of the sediment in which it is found.
Seagrass meadows, along with algae, are important to reefs as they are often the first steps in forming the ecosystems and are the main food source for organisms such as sea turtles.
“Without seagrass, none of these ecosystems could exist, although it is often overlooked,” said Griffiths.
In addition to his seagrass research, which is usually conducted in the afternoon, Griffiths also does two morning dives where he takes photographs, runs transects to identify coral and fish populations, and also finds critically endangered coral species.
“We also do specialty dives, like lionfish culls,” said Griffiths. “A typical dive may last 45 minutes at 60 or 70 feet, then we come back to the boat and have a 45 minute surface interval before swapping our gear and going down again at a different site to do the same.”
Lionfish culls can also occur during the evenings, as Griffiths said that the species is incredibly invasive and venomous and that in addition to stinging tourists, they wreak havoc on the reefs, killing herbivorous fish that in turn results in the overgrowth of algae and death of corals.
Griffiths said he jumped into research scuba diving when he was coming up with a list of things that he thought were exciting but had never done.
“I had always wanted to be a diver. Doing research underwater, however, is a different story – it isn’t all swimming with turtles and sharks because we have a job to do. We are often dropped in places with huge amounts of surge and massive currents that sweep you onto your back when you come over the reef wall,” said Griffiths, who added that he enjoys doing field work and that CCMI and its staff are on the cutting edge of reef research in one of the last pristine, untouched marine reef ecosystems in the world.
“I was attracted by the prospect of doing work that had a visible impact in a highly vulnerable environment like the reef systems. It was also somewhat of an exploration for me in that I had never before conducted work underwater or done any research related to marine biology. I thought that by jumping in and getting my hands dirty I would be able to decide what I ultimately want to spend my life studying,” said Griffiths.
Griffiths is being mentored by CCMI’s Greg Foster, and he said that Foster is a great role model.
As for his favorite part about the program, Griffiths said that it had to be the diving.
“It takes my breath away every time. There is nothing like the first few seconds of dropping below the water level and seeing the world thriving beneath you. I often have to remind myself that I have a job to do so I don’t waste all of my air staring at everything,” said Griffiths.
The University of Delaware Career Services Center and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) collaborated with the Produce Marketing Association Foundation to offer an interdisciplinary group of UD students an all-expenses-paid trip to explore career opportunities in the produce industry at the PMA Tech Knowledge conference in Monterey, California.
There, the students learned about new technology and innovations in the industry.
The students who attended PMA Tech Knowledge were Danielle DaGrosa and Taylor Jaffe, who recently graduated from CANR with bachelor’s degrees in food science; Grant Wing, a senior in the College of Engineering; and Julia Winkeler, a senior plant science major in CANR. The four students were selected from a competitive pool of 24 applicants.
Joyce Henderson, Career Services Center assistant director for employer partnerships, said the PMA has been an employer partner with the center for three years. The Tech Knowledge conference is the third career conference that has been offered to UD students.
“The all-expenses-paid conferences are attractive to students because they are an awesome way for students to learn about the industry and to expand their networks. To be eligible to participate in the PMA conferences, students must complete an application and go through an interview process,” Henderson said.
The students were accompanied on the trip by Kali Kniel, professor of animal and food sciences in CANR.
“The whole point of the trip was to inform students about the produce industry,” Kniel said. “I think people are interested in learning about food products that are healthy and that we all consume. Also, there’s so much technology in the business, which is a constantly changing industry.”
On the trip, students met with industry leaders to learn about the potential for incorporating higher level technologies into production of fruits and vegetables, such as sensory applications to enhance the aroma and the consumer experience.
Other new technologies in the industry include the use of drones for monitoring fields, nanotechnology for use in packaging and growing, 3-D printing for use in manufacturing, harvesting and growing, the use of big data, and entrepreneurship.
Networking opportunities were among the most beneficial aspects of the trip, as the students were paired with career ambassadors who helped explain the responsibilities associated with their various jobs and who introduced the students to colleagues.
DaGrosa was paired with a career ambassador who worked in food safety for Chipotle.
“I got to talk to him about all the recent changes they’ve been making in their company policies, and I got to ask him all about what he does. It was really cool to see what kinds of things that company is doing from a food safety standpoint,” said DaGrosa.
The students were also able to meet representatives from companies such as DuPont, Monsanto and Taylor Farms, among others.
“During pretty much every meal we ate, we were networking, so I got to meet a lot of really great people and pick their brains for any advice they might have for me as I go forward into my career,” said DaGrosa. “Also, I made some contacts that I know I can reach out to if I would like to try and find work in that industry.”
Kniel said opportunities to meet professionals in the industry are great for the students as “people in the produce industry are like no others. They are the nicest people. They are so passionate about what they do, and even though some of them may be millionaires, they are very down-to-earth and they want to talk to you. They’re very interested in the future and they recognize that these students are their future.”
A highlight of the trip was when the students got to visit the Salinas Valley headquarters for Tanimura and Antle, an industry leader that farms over 30,000 acres and ships a full line of fresh produce throughout North America, Europe and Asia. During the session, the company showcased some of its new technologies.
DaGrosa said that was her favorite part of the trip because the students “really got to see what a big California farm looks like. I had never seen anything like that before. I’m from New Jersey and I’m used to cornfields, so it was really interesting to see that. It was beautiful.”
The Produce Marketing Association is a trade organization representing companies from every segment of the global fresh produce and floral supply chain. PMA helps members grow by providing connections that expand business opportunities and increase sales and consumption.
PMA is the largest association for produce worldwide, representing the interests of nearly 3,000 companies.
UD was one of three universities chosen to participate in the PMA-New England Produce Council conference being held in Cape Cod, Massachusetts in September.
The PMA Foundation has as its mission to attract, develop and retain talent for the global produce and floral industry.
Eight University of Delaware students began their first day as 2015 Extension Scholars on June 8, marking the start of a 10-week summer experience working with Cooperative Extension research and program outreach in communities throughout the state.
Now in its 11th year, the Extension Scholars program offers UD students a unique, hands-on experiential learning environment under the guidance of Extension agents or specialists.
During this summer internship, students will follow Cooperative Extension’s service learning model, implemented through one of Extension’s four program areas: 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences, lawn and garden, and agriculture and natural resources.
Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of UD Cooperative Extension, welcomed the scholars at their first-day orientation and explained how their new role in the Cooperative Extension Service — a 101-year-old system — remains connected today in every state through land grant universities, such as UD, Delaware State University, Cornell University, Rutgers University and Pennsylvania State University.
“I started my career doing something just like this,” Rodgers said, noting that most Cooperative Extension locations throughout the country offer a similar type of summer intern program.
The 2015 University of Delaware Extension Scholars are:
Jackie Arpie: A rising junior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Arpie will work with her mentor, Michele Walfred, communications specialist based at the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown. Arpie will concentrate on Extension communications and create video and social media content, and integrate Delaware efforts with the national affiliate eXtension.org. Arpie will focus on Extension efforts statewide, including coverage of her fellow scholars.
Jacqueline Bavaro: A rising senior in the College of Health Sciences (CHS), Bavaro will work with New Castle County’s Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) and with 4-H as it implements its summer nutrition programs. She will mentor teen health ambassadors and provide overall nutrition education to young people. Bavaro will work with Sue Snider, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS), and Kathleen Splane, family and consumer science agent in Kent County. Bavaro’s internship is funded by the ConAgra Food Smart Families grant.
Rebecca Carroll: A rising senior in CANR with a double major in ecology and biology, Carroll will with work with Gordon Johnson, extension specialist, on climate hub research projects involving Delaware crops and climate change. Carroll plans to compile climate resources for farmers and will organize a climate change field day this summer.
Andrea Davis: A rising junior in CHS, Davis is a health behavior science major with a minor in biology. Davis will partner with Mallory Vogl, New Castle County 4-H agent, and will work with 4-H summer day camps, oversee 4-H teen member volunteer counselors, and conduct county outreach programs at the Delaware State Fair.
Megan O’Day: O’Day is a dietetics major and rising junior in CHS. This summer O’Day will work with both Kent and Sussex EFNEP and 4-H summer nutrition programs, as well as mentor teen health and conduct overall nutrition education for young people. O’Day will work jointly with Snider and Splane under the Food Smart Families grant.
Hunter Murray: A rising senior in CANR, Murray is majoring in food and agribusiness. Murray will be based in Kent County and will work with Susan Garey, Extension livestock agent, on a variety of initiatives including 4-H youth development and agriculture program areas and events at the Delaware State Fair.
Madeleine Rouviere: A rising senior majoring in nutrition and dietetics with a minor in psychology in CHS, Rouviere is slated to work with New Castle County’s EFNEP and 4-H staff with summer nutrition programs, mentor teen health ambassadors, and oversee nutrition education of young people. Rouviere will work with mentors Snider and Splane. Her internship is made possible through the Food Smart Families ConAgra grant.
Kathryn Russel: A rising junior in CHS, Russel is majoring in dietetics with minors in Spanish and journalism. Russel will be working with Snider and Splane on nutrition communications in both traditional and social media venues. One of the projects Russel will be working on is developing short nutrition, food safety and food buying text messages for a special project aimed at EFNEP clientele.
The Extension Scholars program began in 2004 under the leadership of Rodgers’ predecessor, Jan Seitz. The program is funded through endowments, private gifts and Extension program cost-share contributions. Increasingly, scholars are funded through grants, such as ConAgra’s Food Smart Families grant.
The program initially began with an opportunity for three scholars. Rodgers noted that without the gracious gifts of private donors and endowments, the Extension Scholars program would not have expanded to its present capacity. “People who have observed us and what we do have said, ‘This really matters,’” Rodgers said.
In addition to the generous gifts, Rodgers said that this year at least three positions have been funded by ConAgra.
Each Extension Scholar will work a 40-hour week and earn a stipend of $3,770. In addition, scholars may elect to earn three course credits from CANR, supervised by Rodgers as faculty adviser.
As a capstone to the end of their internship in mid-August, the Extension Scholars will participate in the University’s Undergraduate Research and Service Celebratory Symposium.
The symposium provides scholars an opportunity to meet other summer interns and network across UD’s broad student and faculty community. Extension Scholars present their research or creative work through their choice of a 20-minute presentation or through the Scholars Poster Session. View the 2014 symposium photos.
“It’s wonderful to see the Extension Scholar program expand and be supported on so many levels,” Rodgers said. “These young scholars are enthusiastic and ready to do the good work of Extension.”
For updates on the Extension Scholars throughout the summer, follow UD Extension on Twitter @UDExtension and on Facebook.
Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics doctoral graduate Jacob Fooks has been awarded the 2015 George Herbert Ryden Prize in Social Sciences, presented annually by the University of Delaware’s Office of Graduate and Professional Education for the outstanding dissertation in the field.
His dissertation, titled “Essays on Computational Methods in Land and Resource Economics,” included several essays on the theme of applying computational models from the natural sciences methods to several problems in economic valuation and regulation.
One of the essays looked specifically at sea level rise in coastal protective infrastructure and used complex surging wave dynamics and simulations and data on competitive behavior from research participants to see how better policies and subsidy mechanisms can be developed to minimize damage.
Fooks said the study was set up to be fairly generic so that it could be applied to different areas threatened by sea level rise.
“It looked specifically at how regulators can subsidize investment decisions that decreases damage, sea walls or dune nourishment, given that individuals may have different, private values for these things,” said Fooks.
Of receiving the award, Fooks said, “It was unexpected and I’m very honored. It’s a little surreal but very exciting.”
Fooks said that he had many people to thank and that the award was “as much a reflection of the lab and the team here and all the support that I’ve gotten from them. My advisers, Kent Messer and Michael Arnold, especially have been incredibly supportive, as well as both the APEC department and the economics department which I have worked with. And most importantly my family who’ve shared the struggles of graduate school with me for the last five or six years.”
Messer, Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, said of Fooks receiving the award, “Jacob’s work on a wide array of agricultural, natural resource and environmental economics topics is truly groundbreaking, as exemplified by his impressive publication record and his National Science Foundation dissertation award.”
Now that he has received his doctorate, Fooks will begin working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service’s Conservation and Environment branch.
Fooks said he is excited to start work and that he will hold a research position with a heavy policy connection, focusing on “both academic publishing, as well as producing policy oriented briefs on what the implications are for federal environmental and resource policy.”
In the role, he will also be able to continue to work closely with the CEAE.
“I’m sure I’ll continue to work closely with this center, which is really great because it’s been such a supportive environment and place to work,” Fooks said. “We have worked very closely with the group that I’ll been working with in the past – actually I’ve been working with several of my future coworkers more or less since I started my master’s program in the APEC department.”
It’s not every day students get to work with 600-pound pigs but that’s exactly what University of Delaware undergraduates Brittney Andersen and Amy Cherico found themselves doing during internships at the Penn Vet Swine Teaching and Research Center in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
Andersen, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences, and Cherico, a junior majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences, started the internship in January and worked with Kristina Horback, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Clinical Studies-New Bolton Center, helping her with a study on sows — adult female pigs — to see if the pigs could be trained to do simple tasks.
The primary project on which they worked involved pigs and colors.
“A white screen would come on and if the pigs touched it, they would receive food. They would eat it and if the white screen came on again and they touched it again, they would get more food,” said Cherico. “But then, if a different color came on and they hit it, they wouldn’t get any food.”
Cherico said the work was to see if the pigs could be trained “to know the difference between the two colors.”
The students helped Horback get the pigs into a room, distributed feed and staffed a computer that captured the research data on the sows.
On a related project, Cherico and Andersen analyzed the behavior of piglets. “We coded five-minute videos of piglets of varying ages and there are codes to use to note whether they walk around, sit down or make noises,” Cherico said. The research is designed to determine how pigs of different ages and breeds react to a new environment, and the students entered the information then sent Horback the results.
The UD students carpooled to the center and Andersen explained that after changing into their work clothes and putting on boots, they would “just get right into it and try to find which sow was where and get them into the room and then start the whole process.”
They said that finding the pigs was the hardest part, as it wasn’t easy to distinguish among the massive individual animals in a group of 50 or 60.
There were certain pigs that would see the girls and understand what was about to happen, Cherico said. “The ones that got used to the training knew whenever they saw us, they were going to get food, so they would kind of run down and get excited. They got to recognize us, which was cool.”
Andersen added that these pigs would be “right at the gate.”
There were others, however, who didn’t want to move and, as the students explained, if a 600-pound pig doesn’t want to move, it’s not going to move.
Cherico said she enjoyed all aspects of the internship. “It was fun. The best part for me was just the hands on aspect of it,” she said. “It was really cool to actually be able to handle the pigs and be a part of the research and see what was going on firsthand. That was pretty cool.”
Andersen added that the internship helped expand the knowledge they gained from taking the swine production class offered at UD and taught by Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.
“We took the swine production class here in the fall and I had never worked with pigs before that so I was like, ‘I really like this.’ I found out about the internship opportunity and I just liked being able to continue to work with the sows and learn more about the facility,” said Andersen.
Both said the swine production class at UD was great and that they would recommend it to anyone.
“That’s why Delaware is awesome, all the animals are here,” said Cherico.
As for the next steps in their veterinary pursuits, Andersen said she has applied to graduate school for animal science and also has applied for government fellowships, one focused on infectious disease. Cherico said she will spend the summer completing her veterinary school applications.
Any UD students interested in an internship at the Penn Vet Swine Teaching and Research Center should contact Kristina Horback.
An interdisciplinary team of students at the University of Delaware has developed a new app called PocketFarmer designed to help Christmas tree farmers in the region diagnose, identify and mark potentially diseased plants.
Through Spin In, OEIP matches entrepreneurs who are developing innovative early stage technology with a team of UD undergraduate students to further develop both the technology and the marketing strategy.
The student team is mentored by UD faculty members and works side-by-side with entrepreneurs to provide solutions to the challenges that need to be overcome on the path to commercialization.
The idea for the app came about when Michelle Rodgers, associate dean for Cooperative Extension in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, asked agents to come up with app ideas that could benefit Extension clientele as part of an “App Challenge” contest that involved all 13 northeast states in the Extension system. As part of that challenge, the participants would also have to create a YouTube video to go along with their app.
Nancy Gregory, an Extension agent, had been working closely with Christmas tree farmers in Delaware in conjunction with Brian Kunkel, an Extension specialist. They had conducted workshops for the growers and collaborated with them through a three-year grant from the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) to evaluate disease resistant cultivars of Christmas trees.
Christmas tree diseases
The main type of Christmas tree that is grown in the area is the Douglas fir, and Gregory said it can be afflicted by two main diseases – Rhabdocline needlecast and Swiss needlecast.
Both diseases cause premature needle loss, leading to thin foliage, which is especially problematic for Christmas tree growers who need fuller trees to appeal to customers.
Gregory said that to combat the Rhabdocline needlecast, growers have been interested in cultivars from the western United States that have sources of resistance to the fungal pathogen. Unfortunately, local growers have not found trees with growth habits and characteristics that they like.
“In the meantime, Swiss needlecast has come in and become even more problematic and it turns out that all those lines they were looking at that might be resistant to the Rhabdocline needlecast are susceptible to the Swiss needlecast. So that’s become an even bigger problem,” said Gregory.
The two needlecast diseases are especially prevalent on Douglas fir trees in the area because of the coastal climate and humid summers.
Gregory said that both diseases are easily controlled with the use of fungicide sprays but that timing is crucial, and that is where the PocketFarmer could be of a benefit to the growers.
“The control of these diseases usually requires three fungicide sprays, sometimes four in a season, and it’s very dependent on timing. You have to know when the spores are being produced, which is usually in May,” she said. “When those spores are released, they infect the new expanding needles so it’s very crucial when you get that first spray and then traditionally the growers will spray every two weeks after that.”
The PocketFarmer app would help growers know when to spray and also help them keep track of the number of applications.
Michelle Lifavi, a junior majoring in communication and the communications specialist for the team, explained that the app is equipped with a seasonal calendar that will tell the growers how their trees should be progressing and what diseases to look for during particular times of the year.
“We have a GPS pinpointing feature so the trees can be pinpointed on the farm. If one tree has a certain feature on it, the farmer can write notes, can have a picture and can input coordinates so he can come back to it and know the exact location,” she said.
Another way in which the app could help the growers is in identifying and verifying the needlecast diseases early on.
“The growers need to recognize whether or not they have the fungal needlecast disease or whether they might have something else causing spots on the needles,” said Gregory. “There are look-alikes that it might be confused with, whether it’s a scale insect or small specks. There is a small speck called flyspeck, which is not a pathogen, it’s just kind of an opportunist that might grow there. There are a number of things that the growers could confuse.”
With the app, the growers would be able to take a picture of what is afflicting their trees and compare it against images of known pathogens.
“We have the ‘take a photo and diagnose page,’ which is quick and easy,” said Lifavi. “The growers implement all the symptoms that they have – such as where it is on the tree, what’s going on with it – and then the app filters through and picks the disease that they most likely have.”
Gregory explained that these features “could save them time and money because they’d know when that crucial first spray needs to go on and they would know for sure what pathogen they have, or if they have an insect instead of a pathogen – they would know what’s causing the problem.”
The PocketFarmer would also work hand in hand with Extension agents because while it would allow the growers to be more self-reliant, the group still stresses the need for Extension agents to confirm diseases.
“The idea is to give them picture clues and information, but always back it up with the recommendation to either contact your local county Extension office or send a sample in for an accurate diagnosis,” said Gregory.
Lifavi said the app would provide farmers the ability to take photographs of their potentially diseased trees and to share them directly with an Extension agent.
While the app is currently focused on just conifer trees in the area, the group named it the PocketFarmer with the hopes that they could expand it to other crops.
Nathan Smith, a plant science major who worked on the project, said, “The idea behind this app is to create a useful tool for farmers to be able to carry around with them in the field and help them diagnose problems that are occurring with their crop. In this case, it’s Christmas trees. PocketFarmer will give them recommendations on what to do. It’s like carrying a thesaurus with you but it’s faster and caters to the specific needs of the farmer.”
Andrew Seski, a sophomore finance major and the business analyst for the PocketFarmer team, said of the experience, “Throughout my time working in the Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships (OEIP), I have not only gained a new appreciation for diversity in the workplace, but I have personally grown through experiencing other disciplines focused on accomplishing a common goal. OEIP has offered me both the autonomy to be innovative in my work, as well as offering me lifelong connections.”
Akuma Akuma-Ukpo, a computer engineering student, said he enjoyed the project management aspect of the app development. “The privilege to get exposure to real world project creation while collaborating with an interdisciplinary team with limited resources was a great way to usher us into our respective real world careers,” said Akuma-Ukpo.
Team members include Akuma-Ukpo; Lifavi; Smith; Seski; Jack Sherry, design/graphics; and Rebecca LaPlaca, arts and sciences.
The team is mentored by Reetaja Majumdar, a master’s student in business and economics, and works with Sarah Minnich and Cyndi McLaughlin, both from OEIP.
Anyone interested in learning more about the app can contact Lifavi or Seski for more information.