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Kelly Davidson New Professor Profile

Could you give a little background information about yourself? 

I’m an Assistant Professor of Applied Economics, and I teach courses in Food and Agribusiness Marketing and Management. My interest in this field started at the University of Kentucky, where I completed my undergraduate and masters degrees in Agricultural Economics. I’m a huge wildcats fan, but I’m actually from Ohio. I grew up on a farm in northwest Ohio and I moved to Kentucky in high school.

In undergrad, I also studied French and international economics, and I had opportunities to work and study abroad during summer semesters. I knew I wanted to pursue a PhD in Applied Economics, but I took a break between my master’s and PhD. I worked in Hawaii for two years for the National Marine Fisheries Service. It was great. Then I taught agribusiness at the University of Tennessee at Martin for two years and then recently completed my PhD at the University of Florida.

Kelly Davidson New Professor ProfileWhat did you study for your PhD?

I studied Food and Resource Economics. My focus was on behavioral economics and food choice. I conducted an experiment to explore the impacts of behavioral nudges and participatory trainings on nutrition and healthy food choices in Bangladesh.

When did you arrive at UD?

Just a couple of weeks ago. I finished my PhD in December of 2017 and then I continued teaching for a semester at the University of Florida. I arrived in Newark at the end of July and I officially started at UD August first.

What are your impressions of the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, the college and the University as a whole?

It’s impressive. It feels like home already. I’m excited about the high caliber of research, teaching and extension that is central to UD. It seems like there are a lot of great initiatives in all three pillars, and everyone has been super friendly and welcoming.

What will your focus be here at UD?

I’ll still be working on behavioral economics and food choice. I want to shift my focus a bit to explore nutrition interventions in the United States, particularly among low-income consumers, and to conduct research that informs food assistance policies. But I also still plan to occasionally explore ways behavioral economics can inform policy in developing countries.

You grew up on a farm and have an agriculture background, did that inform your agricultural economics interest?

Definitely. I chose my major as an undergrad because I liked math and I loved agriculture. We had a grain and cattle farm and I was in FFA as a kid and showed hogs and cattle at the county fair. I’m sure the experience of keeping farm records for my fair projects informed my choice to study agricultural economics.

What is the most important thing people need to understand about agriculture?

I think the most important thing is that agriculture spans so many different facets of life, particularly with all of the different points along the value chain. When someone opens a loaf of bread, they don’t necessarily think about farming, they think about the sandwich they’re going to make. But there are so many lives in between and decisions—production and consumption, buyer and seller decisions—to get to that loaf of bread and that’s what I find interesting.

Especially now as consumers increasingly show preferences for local foods while we’re operating in a global food system. The conversations around food and agriculture are really similar everywhere that you go. I was in Bangladesh and I was hearing similar conversations from families wanting to know where their food came from, that it was safe, that it was reliable and we have those same conversations here. The drivers of these preferences and conversations are what I find fascinating.

How many classes will you teach in the Fall of 2018?

I’m teaching strategic selling and buyer communication this fall. We’ll focus on relationship selling, which is important in agriculture but also relevant in many other industries. I’m also coaching the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) team. We’ll get started this fall looking at product ideas and putting together the marketing plan. We’re trying to carry on Dr. Toensmeyer’s [who established the club in the early 1990’s] legacy.

What drew you to UD and specifically to the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics?

In my world, I’ve always known agricultural economics to exist because I studied at land grant institutions. But I think, what’s unique to agricultural and applied economics, is that it is applied. We’re asking real world questions and solving, or attempting to solve, real world problems with economic models and empirical evidence. I pursued this field because we’re working on real world policy issues and informing policy with evidence.

That seems to be a top priority of the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics here at UD so that was exciting. The Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research uses cutting-edge tools to inform policy, and that aligns very well with my research agenda. I was drawn to this department because it houses such high caliber researchers while at the same time being dedicated to high caliber teaching – our faculty truly care about the students. The dedication to excellence in both teaching and research is really what drew me to UD and this department. And of course, the color blue. Everywhere I go has to be blue.

Besides being a Kentucky fan, are there any other interesting hobbies or activities you like to do in your free time?

I am a very outdoorsy person. I enjoy hiking, trail walking, and going to the beach. A more recent hobby of mine, for the last two years, has been CrossFit. I started with little to no athletic background and am now it has become a major part of life for my husband and I.

I also collect pigs—like piggy banks and pig figurines—and still love all things pigs and agriculture. I don’t have any live pigs yet but that’s coming eventually. That’s the dream.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Kelly Davidson

UD graduate student investigates energy expenditure of ducks

With waterfowl habitat continually changing and wetland loss occurring on a regular basis, it is imperative for researchers to see if landscapes provide enough habitat to support waterfowl populations at ideal levels.

A habitat’s carrying capacity is the number of living organisms that a region can support without environmental degradation. Researchers at the University of Delaware recently partnered with the United States Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (USGS PWRC) and Ducks Unlimited (DU) to piece together a part of the carrying capacity puzzle, looking at how much energy ducks burn during a given day.

The research was led by Jake McPherson, a master’s level student in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology as well as a regional biologist for Ducks Unlimited, and Chris Williams, professor of wildlife ecology who also oversees a waterfowl and upland game bird research program in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Supply and demand

McPherson said that there is a question of energy supply — how much energy a habitat is able to provide a certain number of waterfowl — and of energy demand, which is where his research comes into play.

UD graduate student investigates energy expenditure of ducks“On the energy demand side, you need to know how much energy a duck uses in a given day and you can scale that up and, for example, say, ‘One duck uses this many calories a day, and it’s going to be in this region for 60 days and we want to support 100,000 ducks’ so you can come up with a total energetic need for those birds,” said McPherson.

In order to investigate how much energy non-breeding waterfowl use in a day, past waterfowl graduate students under Williams first had to determine what specific activities make up the normal day of a duck. But after that, McPherson has come in to estimate the energy expenditure for some of those behaviors.

“It swims, flies, dives, feeds and each of those activities have different energy requirements. I’m looking at the specific energetic cost of each of those behaviors,” said McPherson.

The study used American black ducks and a lesser scaup in order to represent the two guilds of ducks: divers—ducks who dive for their food—and dabblers—those who dabble for food in shallow water or on the surface.

Using respirometry equipment for the study, McPherson put individual ducks in a sealed chamber. Whenever the duck would perform an action, whether it be swimming or diving, the respirometry machine would read the changes in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels within the chamber.

“As energetic activity increases in the chamber, that bird’s going to be consuming more oxygen than it would be if it was resting,” said McPherson. “We can use the oxygen consumption rate observed inside the chamber during that behavior to come up with an estimate of calories burned per time.”

McPherson said that while the size of the chamber can affect the accuracy of the readings, the researchers were able to develop a pyramid shaped chamber big enough that the ducks could do their normal activities without restriction but also small enough that they could get accurate readings.

In order to determine what the ducks were doing when they observed changes in the amount of oxygen in the chamber, they also videotaped the ducks during two-hour periods and cross referenced the data with the videos.

“We had to videotape these birds and time-synch the video to the respirometry output. I could look at the respirometry output and say, ‘I can see there was an increase in oxygen consumption and therefore energy expenditure in this period, let me go back and see exactly what the bird was doing during that period.’ That’s how we can correlate calories burned to a specific activity,” said McPherson.

One of the biggest challenges they faced in their research is that they were unable to observe what is perhaps the biggest energetic cost for waterfowl: flying.

“You can’t really measure flying in my set up so we said, ‘We’re going to try and get all of these other behaviors and we’ll accept that the energetic cost of flying is beyond the scope of this project,” said McPherson.

Previous study

Currently, when wildlife researchers are determining how many calories waterfowl are burning in a certain habitat, they are using numbers from a study in the 1970’s where researchers surgically implanted heart monitors onto birds in a semi-wild setting and then correlated the heart rate monitor with their observations in the field.

McPherson said that there are couple of challenges with this study, beginning with the surgically invasive implants which could affect the behavior of a wild duck.

“Certainly, it could be said of respirometry as well but surgical implants tend to be more invasive,” said McPherson. “Then, with monitoring heart rate, you can see an increase in heart rate and it wouldn’t be associated with behavior. If a predator flies over, that duck may just be sitting on the water but its heart rate may elevate exponentially and so these are some of the things we were thinking about in terms of the design set up of that previous study.”

McPherson said they are hoping to compare some of these older numbers to the ones they discover.

“Maybe we can confirm them or maybe we’ll find out those numbers were off a bit,” said McPherson.

Williams said that one of the ultimate goals of his lab is to be able to create shortcuts for researchers so that they can estimate carrying capacity without doing costly research in the field.

“It takes a lot of time and money to watch ducks in the field and record their behaviors as well as go out in the field and collect the amount of food that’s on the landscape. If we can get ourselves to a place where we feel like we’ve exhausted the data collection and there are no surprises, we could find shortcuts to make these estimates in the future,” said Williams. “Certainly, that would be a gold standard for us, especially for the state or federal agencies, who could use broad summaries of the data and extrapolate that to where their conservation goals are for the future.”

McPherson, who grew up hunting and fishing in eastern Virginia, said he is looking to determine these carrying capacity estimates in order for future generations to understand and appreciate wildlife.

“My interest in conserving waterfowl populations is to ensure that not only can I continue to enjoy this sport but future generations can enjoy it as well,” said McPherson.

In addition to support from DU and USGS PWRC, the research was also supported by the Black Duck Joint Venture, the Upper Mississippi/Great Lakes Joint Venture and the Waterfowl Research Foundation.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Jake McPherson

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Monica Moriak

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Kenya native and UD grad student earns avian research award

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cause of wooden breast syndrome is unknown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Perdue Farms

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Michael Babak

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD alum Curtis Bennett works at the National Aquarium inspiring the next generation of environmental conservationists

University of Delaware alum Curtis Bennett’s safe space has always been nature. Whether it be exploring in his back yard or participating in nature camps at local parks as a kid, his interest grew into a passion and that passion turned into a career.

Bennett serves as the Director of Conservation Community Engagement at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland and works to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. He also works outside of the aquarium in the City of Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay watershed and nationally to empower conservation actions.

“The work that I do in a lot of our communities in Baltimore City and others regionally and nationally is to identify the needs of those communities from an environmental perspective. I work collaboratively with community pillars, stakeholders and residents to develop programs, projects, and initiatives that meet those needs from an environmental perspective,” said Bennett. “The ultimate goal is to implement and facilitate those programs directly where people are in their own communities and change the narrative of where nature is and how we connect to it on a regular basis. It’s working towards a more sustainable environment but most importantly, sustainable communities.”

UD alum Curtis Bennett works at the National Aquarium inspiring the next generation of environmental conservationistsBennett got his undergraduate degree in environmental science and policy with a concentration in wildlife ecology and management from the University of Maryland College Park. He then came to UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to pursue his master’s in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology after hearing about UD from a friend.

“She told me about the University and she knew about my interests in pursuing opportunities in wildlife and she said, ‘You need to check out the University of Delaware. It has a really robust program,’” said Bennett. “I can recall coming here for a visit and having a chance to meet with some of the faculty and some of the students and I knew instantly that this was home. This was a place where I wanted to be and to expand my education and really prepare me for that next career step.”

At UD, Bennett studied with Chris Williams, professor of wildlife ecology. He worked in New Jersey looking at River Otters with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, specifically where they were in the state as well as key habitat variables and parameters that were important for otters throughout the state so that they could be effectively managed.

There was also a strong education and community based component to the work, and Bennett got experience working with landowners in New Jersey talking to them about the wildlife that lived in their own back yards.

“Many of them had lived there for years and didn’t know some of the wildlife species that lived there, including that there might have been otters in their own back yard,” said Bennett.

This project helped Bennett realize and grow his passion for educating the public about wildlife and how to communicate the science and the details of important research and conservation topics overall.

The other strong passion Bennett has is diversity, equity, inclusion and justice work within the field to make sure that environmental conservation work is continuing to reach broader audiences and continuing to provide opportunities for all in the conservation space.

“It’s so strongly connected to what I do with community engagement but also with the conservation field overall. I’m a mentor in several programs just to make sure that those pathways and pipelines are there for all students to encounter and pursue opportunities within the conservation field,” said Bennett.

These opportunities are critical at a young age, and Bennett said that just as he was exposed to wildlife conservation early in his life, he wants to impart that passion in others as well.

“We did a lot of work with middle school students and with high school students. During my last year at UD, I worked part time with the Delaware Nature Society doing environmental education work,” said Bennett. “For me, it was always that combination of science and education work and being able to communicate the science to the general public. It’s amazing the moments you have engaging with youth out in the field where they’re learning actively how to get involved and what opportunities are available to them because they are the next generation. We need to make sure that we inspire and we empower them just like we’ve been inspired and empowered to do that work. There’s so much for them to do and they can have a lot of fun doing it too.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Curtis Bennett

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Samantha Fino
This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Botanic Gardens offers class on how to identify basic disease and insect pests in your garden

Have you ever wondered about that caterpillar on your red-twig dogwood, or if you should remove the extraterrestrial-looking spiny orange koosh ball-like mass on your cedar tree?

Join University of Delaware plant diagnostician Nancy Gregory and entomologist Brian Kunkel at UD’s Botanic Gardens (UDBG) on Tuesday, July 24 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. for “Uh-Oh … What’s That?”

You will learn how to identify basic disease and insect pests, as well as the “good guys” in your garden. The class will feature both inside instruction and continue with a walk through the gardens to provide hands on identification opportunities.

Plant diagnostician Nancy Gregory will cover diseases like cedar apple rust.
Plant diagnostician Nancy Gregory will cover diseases like cedar apple rust.

The cost of the class is $15 for UDBG Friends and $20 for non-members, and will occur rain or shine. Meet in room 102 of Fischer Greenhouse (behind Townsend Hall, 531 South College Ave, Newark, DE 19716). The maximum number of attendees is 25; registration and pre-payment are required. Email BotanicGardens@udel.edu or call 302-831-2531 to provide credit card information. If paying by check, make checks payable to “UDBG” and send to:

UDBG

   University of Delaware

   152 Townsend Hall

   Newark, DE 19716

To enjoy member discounts and other exclusive benefits, join our UDBG Friends online at the UDBG website or contact Melinda Zoehrer at BotanicGardens@udel.edu.

About University of Delaware Botanic Gardens

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

Article by Dante LaPenta

Photo by Nancy Gregory

UD drone work covers two bases

Each week for the last several months, Dr. Jarrod Miller, University of Delaware Extension agronomist, has launched an unmanned aerial vehicle, more commonly known as a drone, skyward to map fields at the university’s Carvel Research and Education Center and on nearby farms.

“I fly everything I can because we’re just trying to figure out how to use it,” he said. “Anything we can do with it, we’re trying.”

Miller said he’s been working drones via Extension since 2015 but the bulk of the flying has been since September.

Jarrod Miller, preparing to launch one of his drones in flight, has been flying repeatedly over the research and commercial fields, gathering data on crop conditions. “The hardest part is getting this thing to land,” he said, as it was airborne. “I make sure I stay away from roads.”
Jarrod Miller, preparing to launch one of his drones in flight, has been flying repeatedly over the research and commercial fields, gathering data on crop conditions. “The hardest part is getting this thing to land,” he said, as it was airborne. “I make sure I stay away from roads.”

This year, he’s been visiting about 14 fields in research and commercial production gathering thousands of pictures with both fixed wing and copter-style drones, that are then digitally stitched together into single images of the field.

The repeated flights help Miller, who is trained and licensed to fly the drones, gather as much data as he can think of on crop conditions and also become familiar with the equipment’s capabilities and limitations with an eye on relaying the information to farmers and other would-be drone pilots.

With each flight, Miller makes an entry in a journal, keeping record of the drone’s use, performance in different weather factors and other variables.

Miller said he’ll use this data and flight experience to educate farmers on making decisions on using drones when they see a possible payback.

“That simple kind of information is what I appreciate, doing the preliminary experimenting so they don’t have to,” he said. “Part of our goal is learn the basics and tell people what we learned. Maybe they can figure out ways to use it better for their own operation.”

Though drones have been a part of the agricultural landscape for a few years, their widespread use remains on the horizon as ways to effectively use the data catches up with drone innovation.

Add to that, drone companies frequently getting bought by other firms or going out of business and vauge guesses on the equipment’s life expectancy, and Miller said it makes going all in on using a sophisticated drone very risky for a farmer.

“The technology is so new, there’s no reason to invest a lot of money it,” he said. “It’s always changing.”

Drone packages can cost in the tens of thousands, Miller said; too expensive for most farmers to consider.

The fixed-wing drone Miller uses cost about $4,500 with much of that price paying for the multispectral camera embedded in it. Along with standard digital images, the camera captures images in four wavebands: green, red, red edge and near infrared, getting different perspectives of the crops below.

The multi-spectral imagery goes toward Miller’s research objectives, building a bank of data that, with multiple years added to it, can aid in better crop management, seeing problems sooner as they develop in the field and taking action.

“You start to pick up when things occurred,” he said. “You can actually see some interesting patterns in there.”

It’s already been a huge time and labor saver in calculating stand counts and biomass levels in some row crops which is helpful in plant population studies and research on equipment calibration. Miller expects the data will help refine soil mapping and grid sampling methods.

“We don’t know all of what we can do yet so I just figure collect as much as possible and later we might figure out how to use it better,” Miller said.

Article and photo by Sean Clougherty

This article was originally published in the Delmarva Farmer.

K. Eric Wommack named fellow of American Academy of Microbiology

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of K. Eric Wommack

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware 4-H hosts STEM summer camp for girls

Fourteen girls interested in science, technology and math (STEM) education got their summers off to a scientific start at Girls STEM camp, which was run in collaboration with the Delaware 4-H Youth Organization and the STEM You Can! Organization, a national youth-led nonprofit that provides free STEM summer camps and other programs for elementary and middle school girls.

It was held recently at the New Castle County Cooperative Extension building on Wyoming Road in Newark.

The week-long camp covered everything from astronomy to physics to engineering and had the students involved in fun, hands-on activities to teach them about the world of science.

 

Girls interested in STEM education took advantage of hands-on learning opportunities at Delaware 4-H’s girls STEM camp held recently in New Castle County.Activities included making slime to teach about chemistry, using three different colored grapes to teach the girls about the differences between neutrons, protons and electrons, learning the physics behind how Mentos and Diet Coke produces an explosion of Coke bubbles, and using a snack to teach about the different layers of the earth.

“We were learning about global warming and water filtration so we did a snack based on layers of the earth,” said Elaine Geng, a junior at the Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania who led the camp and developed the camp curriculum with the STEM You Can! organization. “We did chocolate chips as the core, ice cream as lava, Oreos as the crust and so it was a fun way for them to learn the different layers of the earth and then eat it afterwards. I think they really liked it.”

As for a favorite topic, Geng said that the girls enjoyed all of the hands-on activities, such as creating a marshmallow catapult, but that one in particular seemed to rise about the rest.

“We made slime with borax and glue to teach them about how the two chemicals can combine and form a chemical with a very different texture. The girls were so excited to make slime. They kept asking me when we’re going to do slime. There’s girls who had been looking forward to making slime since Monday,” said Geng.

Geng participated in a 4-H camp last year as a counselor and enjoyed the experience so much that it made her want to get even more involved this year where she was able to combine her passion for teaching and working with youth to get them interested in STEM education.

“I think it’s important to inspire the girls’ interest at a young age about all different fields of science so that they know what field they are interested in so they can explore more in depth later on,” said Geng.

Betsy Morris, 4-H Extension Educator who mentored Geng, said that she was “so proud of Elaine for taking this initiative combining her 4-H camp counselor experience and her passion for science. The girls absolutely loved the camp.”

In a post survey of parents, the camp was rated 5 stars.

Campers surveyed indicated their knowledge and interest in STEM had increased to “very high” as a result of the camp.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Monica Moriak

In Memoriam: Agriculture’s Jock Elterich – professor emeritus, researcher, adviser and donor – passes away

University of Delaware professor emeritus Joachim (Jock) Elterich passed away on June 27, 2018, in Hockessin, Delaware. The 88-year-old passed with dignity and peace and was surrounded by his family.

Before UD, he was a Fulbright research scholar at the University of Bonn (Germany) where he obtained his undergraduate degree; he went on to obtain his master’s degree at the University of Kentucky and Ph.D. at Michigan State University. He held professorships at the University of Kiel (Germany) and Slovak University (Slovakia). He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor Honoris Causa from the Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra (Slovakia) for the work he did there for several years.

Dr. Elterich began his UD career in 1967. He spent much of his career in the Department of Food and Resource Economics (now Applied Economics and Statistics). His areas of expertise included milk production economics, container port studies, labor markets and optimal farm organizations.

Agriculture’s Jock Elterich – professor emeritus, researcher, adviser and donor – passes awayDr. Elterich was a founding member of the Operations Research Program, which was designed to provide graduate students with strong foundations in the theories and methods of economics, engineering, mathematics and statistics in order to analyze problems from a systems approach. He retired in 1998 but remained a very active faculty member and world traveler, working on many agriculture-related research projects across the globe. He was vice president of the University of Delaware Association of Retired Faculty.

“Prof. Elterich was a very strong supporter of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR),” said Provost Robin Morgan, who previously served as CANR dean. “He attended many college events and celebrations, brightening these occasions with his keen interest in faculty and students.”

A native of Germany, Dr. Elterich never forgot the impetus that started him on this career path – research fellowship funding. He found a way to encourage other graduate students from foreign countries to come to UD and carry out research in agriculture economics. In 2002, he generously created the G. Joachim Elterich Fellowship, which – to this day – provides research support to students from abroad who plan to target operations research or agriculture economics.

The memorial service date and time are still to be determined. His full obituary is available online.

Article by Dante LaPenta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Delaware First Campaign

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

Article by Nicholas Michael and Nadine Sabater

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension coordinates statewide insect trapping program to benefit growers

Since the early 1970s, the University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program has coordinated a statewide insect trapping program—which includes black light traps and pheromone traps—to helps growers and industry professionals track seasonal occurrences of pests that might affect their crops, as well as let them know the best times to apply insecticides.

The program also helps academic professionals, as information gathered from the program was used in a recent study led by the University of Maryland and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrating regional pest suppression.

The black light traps use ultraviolet light to attract insects that are usually active at night. Pheromones are chemical substances usually produced by animals and they can be used to lure insects to a trap.

UD Cooperative Extension coordinates statewide insect trapping program to benefit growersSince the program began, traps have been located on cooperating growers’ farms throughout the state. In the early days, 25 black light traps were serviced by grower cooperators and collections were sent to the University where a technician hired by UD’s IPM program would identify key moth species.

Starting in late 1980s, trap monitoring shifted to a seasonal IPM employee who sent the trapping information electronically to IPM personnel. Today, that information is placed on the IPM website.

Joanne Whalen, a retired IPM specialist who joined Cooperative Extension in 1979 and became the IPM coordinator in 1983, instituted this change to ensure that trap catch information was received by growers in a timely manner.

In addition to the IPM website, Whalen sent the information to Penn State’s PestWatch website to share the information regionally. During her time as IPM specialist, she also used the information to develop articles for a statewide Weekly Crop Update newsletter.

In 2017, a pilot trapping program was initiated to train growers and consultants on how to monitor their own traps. Participants identified moths and reported moth catches to the IPM program to post on the IPM website. Currently, 14 black light and 13 pheromone traps are checked two times a week from April through September.

In the early days of the trapping program, black light traps, which attract a variety of insects, were used to monitor for black cutworm, true armyworm, corn earworm and European corn borer.

Since the late 1980s, the focus of the program shifted to monitoring primarily corn earworm and European corn borer. In recent years, the black light traps have also been used to monitor stink bug species, both the green and brown native species and the invasive brown marmorated stink bugs.

Currently, pheromone traps are used for corn earworm and emit a specific pheromone that attracts corn earworm moths. Other pheromone traps that have been part of the trapping network in the past have included black cutworm, European corn borer and Western bean cutworm, which will be added to the network again in 2018.

Bill Cissel, the IPM extension agent, said that extension personnel, as well as an hourly wage employee, monitor the traps twice a week and continue to post the results to the UD Extension Insect Trapping Program website.

They are also exploring ways to share trap catch data nationally by including it in the Integrated Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education (iPiPE) and with PestWatch, operated by Penn State University.

“Growers, crop consultants, agribusiness personnel, processing vegetable industry fieldmen and researchers use the trap catch results when making pest management decisions on sweet corn, peppers and green beans,” said Cissel. “Based on pest pressure, measured by the number of moths captured per night and using an IPM approach, they adjust insecticide spray schedules. If we capture a lot of moths, we know that ultimately, we will have a lot of caterpillars and spray intervals may need to be shortened. On the other hand, if pressure is low, then they can stretch that interval out.”

After hearing interest from growers, consultants and industry fieldmen in having historical data on the website, the IPM team worked on adding insect trapping data going back to 1982.

Pheromone trap located at the Carvel Research and Education Center.

“Their interest in using it was to say ‘Ok, I want to compare this year to a year that I recall as being really bad for corn earworms—an outbreak year—and see how we rank this year compared to then.’ With the help of our IT folks, we created an online interactive graph to visually display historical data,” said Cissel.

Greg Keane, database administrator for UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), and Christy Mannering, communications specialist in CANR, helped in the creation of the website and historical interactive graphs.

“You can access the graphs from the current trap catch page on our IPM website by clicking on the historical trap catch data link. Then you can select a trapping location and insect pest to graph. The graph is created based on your selections, displaying current and historical trap catch data. I enter the trap catch data using an online form that is linked to the database and automatically updates the graphs,” said Cissel.

Program origins

Whalen said that the program was begun in the mid 1970s by the first IPM coordinator, Mark Graustein. He used the trap catch information to provide growers and processors in his pilot IPM programs with information to make decisions on when to spray for certain pests. He and entomologists in the region developed the first decision-making systems for insect management using trap catches for peppers and green beans.

“Before I arrived in Delaware in 1979, the main focus was on the processing vegetables industry, specifically green beans and peppers, and how could they could use trap catches, particularly for the management of European corn borer,” said Whalen. “From 1979 until I retired in 2016, we developed an IPM program that used trap catches to make spray decisions as part of an IPM program for sweet corn, green beans and peppers. We have a long history of using IPM and making spray decision based on trap catches for these vegetable crops because once the caterpillar gets in the fruit the damage is already done.”

In addition to providing growers with decision-making information on the need for and timing of insecticide treatments, the IPM trapping program has historically alerted them to potential outbreak of migratory pests and allowed them access to historical pieces of information that gives a sense of the population dynamics of local pests.

Whalen said that the program would not be possible if it weren’t for the cooperation with the local growers and their willingness to allow the traps on their property.

“They did it for the sake of having information they could use on their farms as well as for farmers as a whole,” Whalen said. “They were really committed to getting this information and making sure all growers had access to the information. You can see people from the very beginning felt like knowing what was happening with insect populations in our state was really important.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Michele Walfred

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD research shows beachgoers negatively impacted by offshore oil platforms

Every year, visitors flock to Delaware’s beaches for an opportunity to relax, soak up the sun and take a dip in the ocean.

But if offshore energy platforms—especially oil rigs—were installed off the Delaware coastline, many of those visitors would move their beach blankets elsewhere, according to University of Delaware research.

Forty percent of beachgoers responding to a UD survey that was administered in 2012 said their vacation experience would be negatively impacted, and 16 percent indicated they simply would not visit the beach with oil platforms looming offshore.

The research was led by Jacob Fooks, who was a doctoral student in economics at UD when the research was conducted, and Kent Messer, the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

Josh Duke, professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, and George Parsons, professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, are also authors on the paper which was published recently in the journal Energy Policy.

UD research shows beachgoers negatively impacted by offshore oil platformsMesser said the results from the study should worry the leaders of beach communities who may be considering these offshore energy sources because they could experience a drop off of 10 to 15 percent of their visitors.

“Can the beach communities lose 15 percent of their tourists?,” Messer said. “These people will go elsewhere and another 25 percent of the group is going to come and not really enjoy their visit as much. That’s a big impact.”

The research was conducted at Rehoboth Beach and Cape Henlopen from July 12–15 and July 29–August 1 in 2012.

A total of 525 people participated in the research by completing either a short survey about their opinions regarding a series of images of oil platforms and wind turbines offshore at various distances or by taking a more in-depth, longer survey using computer simulations that presented images of oil platforms or wind turbines on the horizon at varying distances.

In both surveys, participants were shown oil platforms and wind turbines at different distances and asked if those structures would have enhanced, detracted or made no difference to their beach experiences.

Around 60 percent of those who took the short survey indicated that oil platforms would detract from their beach experience, compared with 25 percent for the wind turbines.

Those who took the longer survey were able to select a starting location for the energy platforms.

“Even at ten miles out, which was the farthest the participants could place the oil platforms, many of the respondents would not visit the Delaware beaches at this distance—even though they wouldn’t be able to see the platforms,” Messer said. “Participants were clearly concerned about the oil spills that could affect the beaches. In contrast, people were more comfortable with having wind turbines closer to the shore.”

In January 2018, the Trump Administration announced a new five-year drilling plan that could open new areas along both U.S. coasts. Messer said that it is important for coastal communities to realize the negative view many of their visitors have for offshore oil drilling structures.

“Our research shows that beach visitors do not like these oil platforms and believe they would detract from their experience,” Messer said. “A bunch of people said they wouldn’t come to the Delaware beaches because of the presence of offshore oil platforms and a bunch of people indicated a negative sentiment, basically saying, ‘I will still come to the beach but you’ve taken a bunch of the fun out of it.’ This negative sentiment is important from a consumer welfare perspective. If you go somewhere and you don’t like it, that’s a real loss to society.”

The research work was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by iStock

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

In Memoriam: Kenneth M. Lomax

Kenneth Mitchell Lomax, professor emeritus and former chairperson of the Department of Bioresources Engineering at the University of Delaware, died at his home in West Grove, Pennsylvania, on June 9, 2018, after a short illness from an aggressive form of cancer. He was 70.

Dr. Lomax, who earned his master’s degree in entomology and applied ecology from UD in 1971, joined the University’s faculty in 1979 as chairperson of the Department of Bioengineering Resources to pursue his passion, which was undergraduate teaching, especially working with and mentoring his engineering technology students. In 1988, he received the University’s Excellence in Teaching Award. He stepped down as chair of the department in 2003.

In Memoriam: Kenneth M. LomaxDuring the 1992-93 academic year, Dr. Lomax served as the 23rd president of the University’s Faculty Senate, and after his term ended he continued to serve as chair of the senate’s Academic Priorities Review Committee and the Committee on Committees and Nominations (COCAN).

Dr. Lomax’s research work focused on environmental engineering improvements to support the mushroom industry. He enjoyed working with mushroom growers to help develop pragmatic engineering solutions and provided hands-on assistance to challenges facing growers. Although most of his work was local, he was an active participant in international conferences and enjoyed traveling to other parts of the world to visit mushroom farms and assist as needed, particularly in his expertise in air-flow monitoring and controls.

After retiring from the University of Delaware in 2009, Dr. Lomax continued his work with mushroom growers, and that same year he was presented a lifetime honorary membership in the American Mushroom Institute at the organization’s 51st annual conference.

Robin Morgan, provost and former dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said, “After Ken retired, he continued to be involved at UD. He attended many events, always had a smile to share and genuinely cared about what his former students and colleagues were doing. He will be missed.”

“Although Dr. Lomax retired prior to my arrival at UD, his name was often mentioned by my contacts in industry and by alumni,” said Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “His work helped make the Kennett-based mushroom industry the world’s best example of controlled environment agriculture, a sector that is expanding rapidly today.”

A seventh generation Delawarean, Dr. Lomax was born in Wilmington in 1947, the son of the late Ernest Lomax and Martha (Mitchell) Lomax. A graduate of Newark High School, he earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Lafayette College. After getting his master’s degree at UD, he earned his Ph.D. in agricultural engineering from the University of Maryland. He began his career as a research engineer at the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Environmental Laboratory in Cambridge, Maryland, before joining the UD faculty in 1979.

Dr. Lomax enjoyed traveling, gardening, maintaining and making improvements on his small farm, and volunteering. He and his wife often traveled to national parks to hike in the mountains and enjoy the wildlife. He also was an avid University of Delaware sports fan.

He was a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Newark, where he assisted with the monthly food pantry. He also served on the board of the Friends Home in Kennett for many years.

Dr. Lomax is survived by his wife of 46 years, Nancy Lomax; uncles Joe Mitchell (wife Kathy) of Woodside Farm in Hockessin, Delaware, and Larry Parrish of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania; and many cousins. In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by his sister, Anne Lomax, who worked for many years at UD in health education, helping to grow the Wellspring program and the S.O.S. group.

A visitation for family and friends was held from 12:30-2 p.m., Sunday, June 24, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 701 South College Ave. in Newark, where a memorial service to celebrate his life began at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Friends Home in Kennett, 147 West State St., Kennett Square, PA 19348.

Vote for the Blue Rocks’ new signature flavor from the UDairy Creamery

Four potential flavors have been selected as finalists for the new signature flavor of the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

One lucky fan who votes for the winning flavor will win four tickets to the Blue Rocks game on National Ice Cream Day—Sunday, July 15—as well as gift cards to the UDairy Wilmington location and their own supply of the new signature UDairy ice cream flavor.

The contending flavors include:

  • Batter up!
    Fudge Brownie Batter Ice Cream with Fresh Baked Brownie Bites and White Chocolate Chunks
  • Celery-bration
    Celery-brating a Blue Rocks Score! Celery-Green, Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream Loaded with Chocolate Covered Graham Cracker Bases, a thick Marshmallow Swirl and Celebratory Blue Sprinkles
  • Rocky Bluewinkle Tracks
    Blue Sugar Cookie Ice Cream with a thick Fudge Swirl and Mini Chocolate-covered Caramel Truffles
  • Blue Rocks Slide
    Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Chunks and Blue Cookie Cream Swirl

Vote for the Blue Rocks’ new signature flavor from the UDairy CreameryThe flavor ideas all stemmed from the University of Delaware’s Associate in Arts students who work at the UDairy Creamery Market in Wilmington. They came up with the four flavor ideas for the general public to vote on and choose from.

To vote, check out the Blue Rocks website.

For more information on the partnership between UDairy and the Blue Rocks,check out the recent UDaily article.

American Society for Horticultural Science honors recent graduate Olivia Kirkpatrick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Monica Moriak

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

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

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

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

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

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

The program also included nightly reflections around the campfire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Institute for Global Studies

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

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

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

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

Article by Nikki Laws

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Felix Francis receives Interdisciplinary Research Prize at doctoral hooding ceremony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Karen Roberts

Photo by David Barczak, Wenbo Fan and Jessica Eastburn

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

UD alumna Sara Albrecht works with Maryland Department of the Environment to reduce nitrogen in Chesapeake Bay

When Sara Albrecht graduated from the University of Delaware in 2015 with a degree in Natural Resource Management (NRM) from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and followed that up with a Master’s in Agricultural and Resource Economics in 2017, she wanted a job that would allow her to implement conservation practices with regards to nature, but do so in a way that would benefit everybody.

Now working with the Maryland Department of the Environment in their On-Site Systems Division as part of the Bay Restoration Fund, Albrecht gets to do just that, working with members of the local community to upgrade their septic systems to cut down on the amount of nitrogen coming out of their systems and into the Chesapeake Bay.

UD alum Sara Albrecht lowers a well camera to monitor a well as part of her duties with the Maryland Department of the Environment.
UD alum Sara Albrecht lowers a camera to monitor a well as part of her duties with the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Using what are known as Best Available Technology (BAT) units to cut down on a minimum of 50 percent to as much as 76 percent of the nitrogen coming out of home owners’ septic systems, Albrecht said that her responsibilities include managing the database of the units and working with counties and contractors who do the actual installation, operation and maintenance of the units.

“Some of my work involves being out in the field, which I greatly enjoy,” said Albrecht. “I do inspections of the units to ensure that they’re running properly, and I’m also being trained to do soil and site evaluations to help repair failing systems.”

Along with installing the BAT units, the Bay Restoration Fund also helps farmers plant cover crops. Both of these practices are integral in trying to cut down on the amount of nitrogen entering the Chesapeake Bay, which affects everything from shellfish harvesting and crab populations to swimming and recreational uses for the bay.

“The bay is a precious natural resource whose ecosystems have suffered greatly from pollution. It can sometimes take a long time to see results, but we’re finally starting to see impacts of bay restoration efforts,” said Albrecht.

As for her time at UD, Albrecht said that the NRM program suited her perfectly.

“I’ve always loved nature, so I knew I was interested in pursuing that. I loved NRM because it’s all about a balance. I feel that when people think of conservation, they can think of it in isolating terms of ‘don’t develop anything’ or ‘develop everything.’ NRM helps show that there can be a compromise between the two that can benefit everyone. That’s what I really like about it,” said Albrecht.

And while she jokingly admits that she never envisioned herself going into a career involving septic systems, she is enjoying getting to learn more about them while also helping the environment.

“People don’t think about septic systems but they involve really interesting processes. I’m excited to be in this field and I’m excited to be working for the state and the Department of the Environment. I love working here in Baltimore and feeling like I’m giving back to my home state of Maryland,” said Albrecht.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Sara Albrecht

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

Tom Evans honored by American Phytopathological Society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Kathy Atkinson

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

New study uses weather radar technology to identify important stopover sites for migratory birds

Every fall, dozens of species of landbirds migrate from their summer breeding grounds in the United States and Canada to wintering grounds as far away as South America.

The migration period is one of the most perilous stages in the life cycle for birds, and the widespread loss of stopover habitat is believed to be a contributing factor in the decline in populations for a number of migratory bird species.

The first step to protecting important stopover sites for birds is to figure out where they are located, and a new study led by researchers at the University of Delaware and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and partners uses weather radar technology to identify key stopover sites where birds can rest and refuel, and changing patterns in bird migration.

The Northeast Migratory Landbird Stopover Report provides a regional perspective on important sites across multiple states in the Eastern United States.

New study uses weather radar technology to identify important stopover sites for migratory birds“In the Northeast, nothing provides more comprehensive coverage of the land surface than radar,” said Jeff Buler, associate professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware who led the study. “It detects birds over more than a third of the land area in the Northeast.”

Buler and his colleagues analyzed seven years of weather surveillance radar data to predict potentially important stopover sites for migratory landbirds in the region, and conducted surveys for two fall seasons at 48 sites in the Delmarva peninsula and mainland Virginia to corroborate their findings.

“We wanted to know: What are birds doing during stopovers, and why are they choosing certain sites over others?” Buler said.

Using accompanying maps with the radar data can help managers and agencies identify and conserve places heavily used by migrating birds — including protected areas and places that are not managed with migratory species in mind, such as urban parks.

“Before using this radar technology, we didn’t have such a comprehensive perspective on migration stopover for the entire region,” said Randy Dettmers, landbird biologist for the FWS Division of Migratory Birds. “We can use this information to target conservation efforts for management and protection of stopover habitat where it will have the greatest benefit to birds — including urban parks where forest and shrub habitats serve as important refueling sites for migrating birds attracted to brightly lit areas.”

Research Results

The researchers found that migratory birds favor landscapes with a greater amount of hardwood forest cover, but also have a clear preference for hardwood forest patches within more developed landscapes.

Bird density was positively related to the density of arthropods—insects and spiders—and the abundance of fruit, which provide critical food sources for birds looking to refuel during stopovers.

For migratory birds, artificial light is never out of sight — birds flying at about 500 meters above the ground can always detect the sky glow of some large city on the horizon — and it appears to be attractive. The results show that migrant bird density increased with proximity to the brightest areas.

The highest bird densities were found in coastal areas. When southbound landbirds encounter the Atlantic coast, many follow it south rather than migrating over the open Atlantic Ocean. Across the landscape, migrant stopover was most concentrated in woods around brightly lit areas near the Atlantic coast.

The average trend across all radars was a decline of 4.2 percent per year in bird density, which equates to a 29 percent total decline from the period of 2008-2014. Declines were particularly noticeable in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Maine.

Translating results to action

The combination of the regional radar data and the survey data equips people involved in conservation at any scale to identify important stopover sites and make management decisions that reflect the needs of specific species, such as ground foragers that feed on insects in the leaf litter.

While the maps are useful for informing management strategies on protected lands — about half of the National Wildlife Refuges in the region show up on the radar – Buler said the data can help identify new priorities as well.

“We can see many places with heavy use by migratory birds that are not yet protected,” he said.

When Gwen Brewer of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) looked at the study results, she said, “The Pocomoke River corridor on the Eastern shore just lit up like crazy as a migratory hotspot.”

The DNR provided funding to help ground truth the radar data in coastal Maryland and the Delmarva Peninsula through the Resource Assessment Service Power Plant Research Program.

Brewer, who is the science program manager for the Wildlife and Heritage Service, said the study can direct her agency to other priority areas where they can use fine-scale data to narrow in on the forest patches that offer the greatest value to migratory birds.

“By showing us what stands out as important in Maryland, the study also helps us understand what our role should be in the big conservation picture,” she said. “It helps us think about the responsibility we have as part of the larger landscape, and that can inform our in-state process for acquisition, easements, and grant proposals.”

The full Northeast Migratory Landbird Stopover report, maps and data depicting predicted bird density during fall migration, and a user’s guide for these maps are now available in the Northeast Stopover Sites for Migratory Landbirds gallery on DataBasin.

This article was originally published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo by Hannah Clipp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Monica Moriak

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

Graduating students, distinguished alumni honored

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

Warner and Taylor Awards for Outstanding Seniors

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

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

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

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

Article by Nicholas Michael

Photo by Kathy Atkinson

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

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

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

Mark Isaacs

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

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

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

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

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

Carrie Murphy

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

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

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

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

Diana Simmons

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Ratledge Family Award

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

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

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

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

Article by Crystal Nielsen

Photo by Ryan Halbe

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Joshua Duke, Kyle McCarthy honored with Excellence in Teaching Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and Evan Krape

CANR holds 2018 Research Symposium

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

CANR holds 2018 Research SymposiumEric 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.

CANR holds 2018 Research SymposiumThe 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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Monica Moriak

Doug Tallamy receives American Horticultural Society award

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

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

UDairy Creamery hiring servers, interns for Wilmington and Newark locations

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.

Due to the recent partnership with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a new, exciting opportunity for employees at the Wilmington location is the chance to work at Blue Rocks games.

UDairy Creamery hiring servers, interns for Wilmington and Newark locationsIn 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.

Application links below:

Servers:

https://cdn.canr.udel.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2015/12/23140159/Application-for-Employment.pdf

Submit applications for the Newark location to udcreamery@udel.edu

Submit applications for the Wilmington location to udairymarket@udel.edu

Internships:

http://canr.udel.edu/udairycreamery/student-management/

Submit applications to udcreamery@udel.eduby May 4th!

And as always, be sure to follow the UDairy Creamery on social media to stay up to date! @udairycreamery

Article by Kristina Demou

Photo by Christy Mannering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Julia Damiano

Photo by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kent County 4-H Junior Leader Retreat

Members of the Kent County 4-H program took part in a weekend Junior Leader Retreat from Friday, Feb. 23 through Sunday, Feb. 25 learning skills to increase their leadership abilities and gaining additional tools to use when working with groups and leading.

The participants took part in workshops that covered everything from communication skills needed when working as part of a team, to how to help those in need who are being pestered by a bully, to learning all about how to use social media in a safe, responsible way.

They also planned the Younger Member Weekend where they will lead younger members of 4-H, ages 8-12, through a weekend retreat of their own.

Kent County 4-H Junior Leader RetreatJenny Trunfio, 4-H program assistant, said that the 4-H participants practiced a lot of team challenges to help with leadership and communication skills. One such challenge involved teams working together to put together a puzzle but they couldn’t talk and weren’t allowed to touch other members’ puzzle pieces.

“Some thoughts for them during that exercise were that if you can’t communicate, if there’s no way for you to say, ‘Your puzzle piece goes over here,’ how do you get around that? We did a lot of activities like that to get them thinking about how to communicate with a team, how to work together and then we also did some leadership type activities and showed them some challenges in their leadership roles,” Trunfio said.

Rachel Taylor, a member of 4-H who attended the event, said that her favorite part of the weekend was hanging out with friends, sharing laughs and making new memories.

“We did so many activities that helped us determine the type of leader we are [such as one] through animal comparisons. As a specific animal group, we learned the strengths and weakness we hold as a leader. This was a fun way to better ourselves as a leader,” said Taylor.

Taylor added that 4-H allows its members to find their true selves.

“Throughout the course of the retreat, youth are able to find their strengths and weaknesses as a leader. When you determine these characteristics, it helps you determine how you can improve yourself to be the best leader possible,” said Taylor. “It also provides knowledge that you can bring back to your club and community. For example, I attended a social media workshop. During this workshop, I learned how to be safe when using social media. I can take the knowledge I learned and bring it into a presentation that I could do with my club.”

Christy Mannering, communications specialist in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Delaware, led the presentation on social media and stressed that there are a variety of social media platforms that all have different privacy and location settings.

“They’re all going to have different terms and privacy policies. The more you’re connected to them and the more they’re connected to each other, the more they share with each other cross-platform,” said Mannering.

Mannering also let the 4-H participants know that sometimes even though they are posting in an appropriate fashion, other people may tag them or mention them in something public, saying that it doesn’t hurt to Google yourself every now and then to see what is out there.

To emphasize this point, the first 10 minutes of her presentation shared information she had found about each member participating in the session, as Trunfio had given her a list of names in advance.

“It’s important to know that you’re pictures and your interests are connected, your favorite sports, book, hobbies are linked with pictures of your face, you don’t want strangers to take advantage by using that information,” said Mannering.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Jenny Trunfio

CANR to host annual community push lawn mower tune-up service

The University of Delaware’s Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity for agriculture and the Sigma Alpha sorority will host this year’s push lawn mower tune up.

The lawn mower tune up is in its 17thyear and over that time period, 8,750 mowers have been serviced.

Last year, over 650 mowers were serviced.

2018 Lawn Mower Tune up set April 13-15The lawn mower tune-up will be held this year on Friday, April 13, and Saturday, April 14, at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus with pickup on Saturday and Sunday, April 15.

The tune-up is provided by trained students and alumni members of the clubs and includes washing the mower, an oil change, spark plug replacement, air filter cleaning and blade sharpening.

Service performed is tune-up only; no repairs are performed and no riding mowers will be accepted.

The cost of the tune-up is $40. Payment in the form of cash or check may be made at drop-off. Checks should be made out to Alpha Gamma Rho.

Lawn mowers may be dropped off and picked up in the parking lot behind Worrilow and Townsend halls on UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources campus at 531 S. College Ave., just north of the Fred Rust Ice Arena.

For more information, contactJeffrey Hall at jeffhall@udel.edu or call the AGR Fraternity at (732) 672–0328.

Article by Adam Thomas

UD students learn about field sketching landscape subjects in Brazil

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.

 UD students learn about field sketching landscape subjects in BrazilThe 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.”

 UD students learn about field sketching landscape subjects in BrazilFor 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.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Sue Barton

Submissions due for the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens Second Annual Photo Contest

The entry deadline is fast approaching for the 2nd Annual University of Delaware Botanic Gardens Photo Contest. Submissions are due by noon on Friday, March 30, 2018. Five winners will receive gift certificates for the 26th Spring Benefit Plant Sale (April 27-28 and May 3 and 5, 2018) and a Plant Sale t-shirt. For complete information and details on how to submit your images, go to the UDBG website: http://ag.udel.edu/udbg/.

UDBG photo contest submissions due March 30The contest accepts submissions in 2 categories: UDBG Landscapes and UDBG Plants. The Landscapes category accepts images from any of the UDBG gardens that include plants and/or landscape elements. The Plants category is for close-ups of UDBG flowers, fruits, leaves, stems or other plant parts. There is a maximum of 2 entries per person per category.

To enjoy exclusive member benefits, join the UDBG Friends online at http://ag.udel.edu/udbg/ or contact Melinda Zoehrer at BotanicGardens@udel.edu. The Gardens are open year round to provide ideas and inspiration, or for a quiet stroll. UDBG contributes to an understanding of the relationships between plants and people through education, research, cooperative extension, and community support.

UD to host Poultry Disease Outbreak Management and Regionalization certificate course

When there is a poultry disease outbreak in the United States, it has a big impact on the industry, especially with regards to global exports which fall between 15 to 20 percent of the poultry industry business.

Because of this, it is critical to educate the global poultry community on the safe guards the United States has in place to protect against the spread of poultry diseases such as avian influenza.

This summer, from Tuesday, June 5 through Thursday, June 7, the University of Delaware will host a Poultry Disease Outbreak Management and Regionalization (PDOMR) certificate course geared towards giving an international group of participants a better understanding of how the United States is able to regionalize and control avian influenza outbreaks.

UD to host Poultry Disease Outbreak Management and Regionalization certificate course“The idea is that there are countries that say they don’t believe it’s safe to import poultry from anywhere in the United States when there’s an A.I. outbreak and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is saying, ‘Wait a minute, we have a program, a very well defined program to ensure that poultry from other regions of the country are safe,’” said Bob Alphin, senior instructor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and manager of the Allen Laboratory.

“Regionalization can be applied at the national, state, and ideally down to the county level,” said Eric Benson, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and director of the program. “The avian influenza outbreak of 2014 – 2015 was the worst animal health disaster in U.S. history, but large sectors of the poultry industry including a commodity crucial to Delaware, broiler or meat chickens, were not directly impacted by the disease outbreak. Despite this, exports of broilers were significantly reduced. Good regionalization agreements help to reduce these impacts.”

The PDOMR training program will be an intensive program, taught in English, held at UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Newark.

Using a mixture of seminars, discussions, and hands-on technology demonstrations, the Certificate program’s instructors will cover topics such as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reportable poultry diseases including avian influenza virus, surveillance, biosecurity, outbreak response and control, incident command structures, protecting the responder, disposal, composting, decontamination, the U.S. poultry industry, the nature and importance of regionalization and the economic impact of animal disease outbreaks.

The training program will extensively use the experiences gained during the 2014 – 2015 highly pathogenic avian influenza and other outbreaks.

The course also utilizes the “Delaware model,” which emphasizes close cooperation between government, industry and educational institutions to manage avian influenza outbreaks using best management practices and technologies related to controlling outbreaks of avian influenza and other catastrophic disease outbreaks.

Alphin said there are around 10-12 participants who are sponsored by the USDA who will be arriving from all over the world  with room for 8 to 10 more participants.

“What we have to do is educate these foreign representatives about the entire program, the scope of it, the details, and then the big thing is to answer their questions,” said Alphin. “We think it’s one of our land grant missions. We try to help the industry by educating people about it and we think that if we can get more countries to accept our exports—even during the disease outbreaks where appropriate—that’s a win-win for everyone.”

“International capacity building helps protect the U.S. industry by helping to keep diseases away from the U.S. industry,” said Benson. “PDOMR presents both the technical and policy components in disease response.”

PDOMR is one of several internationally focused joint educational programs presented by the University of Delaware’s Avian Biosciences Center (ABC) in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and the Division of Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS).

Additional offerings include the Emergency Poultry Disease Response certificate program, which is a five-day program concentrating on building participants’ technical expertise for managing and responding to disease outbreaks. The Veterinary Diagnostics and Laboratory Quality Assurance program is a second five-day program that helps international veterinary laboratories improve their capacity and meet ISO standards.

For additional information on PDOMR or to sign up for the program, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Bob Alphin

New Wilmington Market mural takes UDairy from cow to cone

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.”

New Wilmington Market mural takes UDairy from cow to coneMelinda 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:

baconbitmadison.wixsite.com/madisonbacon

To stay up to date with the UDairy Creamery, follow them at: https://www.facebook.com/UDairyCreameryMarketWilm/ http://canr.udel.edu/udairycreamery/wilmington/

Article by Kristina Demou

Photo by Dana Friedrich

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UDBG offers hot peppers, heirloom tomato plants at annual plant sale

For hot pepper lovers and adventurous newcomers interested in tantalizing their taste buds, the University of Delaware Botanic Garden’s will offer its selection of hot pepper and heirloom tomato plants at the annual spring plant sale on Friday, April 27th and Saturday, April 28th as well as Thursday, May 3rd and Saturday, May 5th.

Popular chili peppers can be used to make everything from sultry salsas to flavorful dishes. Spiciness is essential to gastronomic pleasure and without chili peppers, dishes would lack Capsaicin—known as that mouth-watering spicy kick—which may play a role in increasing blood circulation, lowering cholesterol, improving digestion, and preventing cancer.

The UDBG plant sale will also feature the hottest chili pepper in the world, as the Capsicum ‘Carolina Reaper,’ which was recognized as the world’s hottest chili in 2013 by Guinnes World Records, will be available.

UDBG offers hot peppers, heirloom tomato plants at annual plant saleHeat is measured on the Scoville scale with bell peppers coming in at zero, or no heat, and the ‘Carolina Reaper’, rated at 1,569,383 – 2,200,000 in Scoville units.

Some of the UDBG’s other selections include ‘Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Red’, rated the second hottest pepper in the world, ‘7 Pot Douglah,’ an extremely hot and rare chili characterized by its dark brown to deep purple skin, and ‘7 Pot Brain Strain’ which many growers consider to be the hottest of the red ‘7 Pot’ varieties.

Incidentally, the ‘7 Pot’ varieties, native to the Caribbean, are named for the ability of 1 pepper to spice “7 pots of stew.”

For those who aren’t fans of hot peppers, the sale will also feature pepper plants for every palate. The selection of 42 cultivars ranges from sweets such as ‘Violet Sparkle’ and ‘Topepo Rosso’ to familiar, mildly hot peppers such as ‘Hot Cherry’ and ‘Corbaci’, to Scorpion, Ghost, Scotch Bonnets and the ‘Carolina Reaper’.

A full list of pepper and tomato plants, including tomatillos, can be viewed on the UDBG’s website at http://ag.udel.edu/udbg/.

Tomatillo ‘Amarylla’ is a key ingredient in many mild to hot salsas and therefore a perfect growing companion alongside pepper and tomato plants.

The UDBG only has a limited number of some varieties, so come early for the best selection.

Article by Rachel Hutchins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interoperability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paper Roots

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Tree and plant removal to begin as UDBG master plan gets underway

The first stages of the University of Delaware’s Botanic Gardens 25-year Master Plan will begin this spring, with the strategic removal of several plants from the front of Townsend Hall. These removals follow recommendations made in the masterplan. They will create strategic vistas of Townsend, the surrounding gardens, and visually link Townsend and STAR Campus to engage both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

The removal will also provide opportunities for the enhancement of the existing garden with new herbaceous plants providing color and visual interest to entice visitors.  The planting will be part of the gardens’ summer internship experience, providing interns practical experience associated with their undergraduate education.

UDBG tree removal gets underwayJohn Frett, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and director of the UDBG, said that the removal will last a few days and be conducted by the University’s campus tree crew and overseen by Mike Loftus, assistant director of grounds services at UD.

Frett stressed that the strategic removals are sensitive to the existing garden while achieving specific goals resulting from the consensus of many individuals during the planning process.

“There are two goals that this project will accomplish. One is to provide a public face to the garden. I think the average person when they drive by, they see a lot of trees and shrubbery. The garden doesn’t say to somebody that there’s a botanic garden here,” Frett said. “Another thing that came out of the master plan was the need to create vistas of the building as you’re entering from the College Avenue.”

The UDBG master plan was a year-long process that included input from the University community, including people in the College of Health Sciences, athletics, parking services, public safety, potential donors, staff and people in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) designed to engage a much greater audience and create a sense of place on south campus.

“There is a deliberate sequence to the projects as we move forward with the implementation of the plan,” said Frett. “This project provides a big visual impact with the limited resources currently available while stimulating interest in future projects.”

Frett said that Anna Wik, assistant professor of landscape design, Susan Wyndham, landscape planner at UD, Loftus and Shipley Allenson, a retired alum from the college, have all been very helpful and instrumental in the decision-making process and that the time is right to begin the implementation of the master plan.

“The timing is right to begin now, so the area will be ready for early summer,” said Frett.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of John Frett

UD researchers investigate population of black ducks in coastal North Carolina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nest searches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Steps

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Daniel Lawson

Video by Jason Hinmon, Paul Puglisi, Daniel Lawson

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

CANR 2018 Research Symposium set for Monday, April 30

The 2018 College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Research Symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Monday, April 30 in a large tent behind Townsend Hall.

All CANR researchers, including undergraduate and graduate students, post-docs, staff and faculty are welcome to participate in the third annual symposium.

The 2018 CANR Research Symposium will be held Monday, April 30Participants will enjoy outstanding intellectual stimulation and lunch with colleagues and may present new posters or posters recently presented at a scientific meeting.

Awards will be given to the top presenters in undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and post-doc categories and all those will receive monetary awards.

To register for the symposium, complete the registration form here.

The deadline to register is Friday, April 6.

UD at the 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interpretive Dance

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas and Mark Jolly

Photo by Evan Krape

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources announces Ag Day date

Ag Day, an annual tradition of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) at the University of Delaware, will be held on Saturday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Members of the campus and neighboring communities are encouraged to join the college for a day filled with music, exhibitors, great food, and fun for all ages on UD’s South Campus.

Registration for exhibitors and vendors is now open and runs until March 27.

UD Ag Day set for April 28Registration is available on the Ag Day Website.

This year’s theme is Global Explorers and will celebrate all that the college has to offer agriculture and natural resource related sciences on a global scale.

Visitors can experience everything from livestock exhibits, 4-H arts and crafts, hayride farm tours, and much more.

Both admission and parking are free and the event is open to the public, rain or shine.

The website also features additional information, announcements, and schedules, and will be updated as the event approaches.

UD student creates open mic nights at UDairy Wilmington

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.”

UD STUDENT CREATES OPEN MIC NIGHTS AT UDAIRY WILMINGTONAn 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.”

Article by Carlett Spike

Photo by Evan Krape

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD holds sixth annual Microbial Systems Symposium

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

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

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

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

Professor and student looking at a poster“The day-long event catalyzes collaborations and helps groups invested in microbiology appreciate the depth and breadth of efforts all across the UD campus. An added plus is that students gain valuable experience in presenting short talks and posters,” Morgan said.

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

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

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

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

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

Poster presentations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Award winners included:

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

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

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

Article and photo by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Erin Sparks New Professor Profile

 Could you give me a little background about yourself?

I grew up in Illinois, in corn country, in the home of John Deere tractors and I never wanted anything to do with agriculture because I grew up with it. I went to Northwestern and got an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering and was interested in medical research. So, I completed a PhD on the medical side of things, working on liver development in mice at Vanderbilt University.

When I finished that, I wasn’t sure which career path was right for me, but I really liked research and teaching, and I hoped to become a professor. However, I wasn’t sure what type of institution I would end up at. I knew that if I went to a primary undergrad institution to teach that I would still be doing research and there was no way I could take any of the things that I had been working on—you can’t work on mice unless you have the infrastructure for mice—and so I started to look at other model systems that might be a bit more flexible in terms of future career options. I had a bit of good luck when I found my post-doc lab at Duke working on root development in plants.

New Professor Profile Erin SparksAlthough it was a completely new research area for me, I went and interviewed and I just loved it. I loved the way the lab asked questions and the way that they did science and so, despite trying to avoid working on plants early in my life, I realized that plants are incredibly fascinating and found myself drawn in.

Around the same time, I got married and as our wedding gift from my husband’s parents, we got five beef cows—they’re in Kentucky on his dad’s farm. We also purchased part of the family farm. Because of these connections, I have developed a personal investment in agriculture and I became much more interested in the on-farm operation. Being at the farm, planting and harvesting the fields, gave me a whole new perspective on my research.

What happened after Duke?

I came here. During my post-doc, I realized that I had an incredible post-doc mentor who gave me the freedom to run my own mini-lab within his lab. I supervised students, I had a technician, I got experience managing people and starting to think about the other aspects of being a professor which includes grant writing, management, and outreach.

My favorite part of being an assistant professor is thinking about the big picture and how to craft an idea. I’m someone who likes to write grants because I enjoy the challenge of asking, “How do I take these ideas in my head and put them down on paper in a way that can communicate to a broad audience and allow people to understand what I think is really cool? How do I get everyone else excited about it?”

What are you excited about research-wise? What will you start looking at?

Given my varied background, my research program merges all these different aspects. My lab works at the interface of engineering and plant biology and a lot of what we do is bioengineering. Many of the collaborators I’ve established here so far are in engineering whether it be biomedical engineering or mechanical engineering.

We work on corn roots, more specifically a root type that is called a brace root. As its name suggests, it is thought to brace the plant and provide structural stability. This is an unusual root type in the fact that it comes out of the stem above the soil and it looks almost like stilts coming off the plant. These root types have not been well-studied and so half of the lab is looking at their function. We’re taking a structural engineering approach to understand the mechanical properties of these roots, the arrangement and how they could be engineered to make a more stable plant. We’re also doing classic plant physiology, because they’re still roots so they likely have a role in water and nutrient uptake.

The other part of the lab is taking a basic development approach. We know a lot about root development but what we know about root development comes from the initiation of roots from other roots. We are interested in roots coming from organs other than a root (e.g. a stem). It’s what we’re calling de novo (latin for anew) trans-organogenesis, in other words something that is different than its parent. It would be like if you grew a finger from another finger, that’s what we know a lot about. But we don’t know how you would get a finger from a hand and so when we think about human regeneration in the bigger context of growing back an arm, we don’t need to know how you get an arm from another arm, we want to know how you get a completely different organ from the one it’s coming from. This is one of the few systems that allows us to study in depth what are the signals controlling this process?

With the brace roots, why hasn’t that been studied before?

They’re called brace roots and it’s almost an old wives tale that farmers have seen them forever and think “Oh yeah, they brace the plant, that must be what they do” but no-one has systematically tested it. Part of the reason is that roots are challenging to study because they’re underground. Most root research has been done on what’s called the primary root – at the seedling, as your seed germinates, you have a single root that’s called the primary root that comes from the seed. These studies are really fast. You put a seed on a plate in a lab and you can start to study that root within a few weeks.

In contrast, brace roots are coming out a month, two months down the road so timing-wise, they’re much more difficult to study because you have to wait for your plants to get big before you study them. I think we’re just hitting the point in science where questions about roots other than the primary roots can be thoroughly asked. You have to start somewhere and where the field started was with the primary root and now we’re trying to understand other root types. 

Will you use the field plots around here?

We share field space with Randy Wisser. Randy and Teclemariam [Weldekidan] have been managing all of our fields.

One of the challenges for me is that I’ve never grown corn before and so their expertise is just incredible. Going out there, learning when we plant, when we harvest, how to pollinate, just field management type things. A huge draw to coming here was having people who were willing to take the time to help and to some extent, there’s so much still to learn for us with field management. Although, our work spans the field, the greenhouse and the lab. We have different experiments for each of these growth environments.

What’s been your impression of UD?

I started in June and the thing that I have absolutely loved is the willingness of people from different disciplines to work together. These cross-discipline and cross-college collaborations are essential to my research. Just how quickly I’ve been included in things has been incredible. You meet one person and then you meet another person and then you meet another person and now all of a sudden, you’re included in this giant network and it was instant connection which was incredible.

The biggest thing we get warned about as new professors is that when you start your own lab it is very isolating. But that has not really been the case at UD, because of the great community in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and at DBI. At DBI, we have faculty lunches on Monday, which means that every Monday, I get to go hang out with other faculty in an informal environment, and it’s been great how quickly I feel connected and integrated into the community.

Any interesting hobbies outside of work? Besides the cows?

I have a big dog who requires a lot of love and attention, so activities tend to revolve around enjoying the outside with her. I also enjoy cooking and I am a from scratch, 10-hour meal preparer.

Article by Adam Thomas

UD Cooperative Extension offers Master Gardener workshops to Delaware community

The University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners will offer a series of workshops throughout the spring across all three counties to help educate Delawareans with an interest in gardening.

The Master Gardeners recently celebrated 30 years of service to Delaware and year 32 continues with a diverse and interesting series of spring workshops.

Master Gardeners are working volunteers and are supported by Delaware Cooperative Extension through the University of Delaware and Delaware State University Extension offices.

New Castle County

March to the Garden: Saturday, March 10, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office, located at 461 Wyoming Road in Newark. The March to the Garden is designed for novice and experienced gardeners alike. The day features a variety of workshops, giveaways, food and an opportunity to network with other gardeners. The Master Gardeners will focus on gardening essentials to help participants with everything from plant selection to garden harvest.

UD Cooperative Extension offers Master Gardener workshops to Delaware communityBeginner Vegetable Gardening: Monday, Feb. 12 and Thursday, Feb. 15, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sign up is for two sessions and costs $25. In two fun and informative sessions, the Master Gardeners will cover the essentials for success: soils, siting, amendments, and of course all the individual vegetables, from arugula to zucchini.

Pest Management – Stress Relief for you and your Garden: Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $15. From critters to slugs, bugs to grubs, weeds, seeds, spores and more, pests can cause stress to garden plants and frustrate carefully prepared garden plans. This workshop will offer tips on how to deal with these problems. Participants will learn about the variety of pests that can attack their plants and the clues they leave that will help to identify the likely culprit. Participants will also consider strategies, practices, tools and a little philosophy of managing pests so that they and their plants can reduce the stress from pests.

Shade Garden Success: Tuesday, March 27, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Cost is $15. Participants are invited to learn how to transform a shady spot into a lush, peaceful, calm and relaxing oasis.

Pruning Basics: Wednesday, March 28, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Cost is $15. This workshop will cover the basics of pruning common plants, including shrubs and trees, for the health of the plant and the desired shape. Master Gardeners will discuss height, form and function, future growth, and the overall health of each plant to help participants develop the landscape they’ll enjoy.

Containia Mania: Tuesday, April 17, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Cost is $25. A hands-on, messy workshop, where participants can keep the plants. Bring gardening gloves and a 12-inch (diameter) container to learn the basics for container planting with annual ornamental plants.

Click here to sign up for any of the New Castle County workshops.

Kent County

The Kent County Master Gardeners are planning a series of workshops for the community through February. Classes are held at the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension Office, Paradee Center, 69 Transportation Circle, Dover, unless otherwise stated.  Contact the Extension Office at 302-730-4000 to register. The schedule is as follows:

Claude E. Phillips Herbarium: Friday, Feb. 16, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. No cost, but space is limited to 20 participants at the Delaware State University Herbarium. The Claude E. Phillips Herbarium, located at Delaware State university, is the only public herbarium on the Delmarva peninsula. It is a botanical resource center that houses a diverse collection of more than 210,000 plant materials from around the world. In this event, Cynthia Hong-Wa, curator, will share the functions of the Herbarium and provide an overview of the scientific collections that include mounted plant specimens as far back as 1799. Participants will also receive an exclusive look at other collections that highlight the importance of plants in general.

Time to Multiply Greenery – Propagation Workshop: Wednesday, Feb. 21, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Cost is free, at Delaware State University Greenhouse. Spring is a great time to start plants or nurture them in readiness for the growing season. During this workshop, Rose Ogutu, DSU Horticulture Specialist, will explore the many ways used to propagate plants. Participants will learn the basic principles for propagation. Together, they will explore the best way one can determine how best to propagate a plant that one might not be familiar with. Participants are encouraged to bring plant materials that they wish to propagate.

Sussex County

The Sussex County Master Gardener Workshop schedule includes a wide variety topics. Of special note, the Master Gardeners are hosting a presentation and book signing by Author Ruth Clausen.  The classes are free, unless otherwise specified, and held at the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center, 16483 County Seat Highway, Georgetown 19947.

Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m.:  Master Gardener Judy Pfizer will talk about Growing Native Plants from Seed. Learn how to grow native plants from seed – a great way to populate a garden with native plants without breaking the garden budget.  Participants will learn tips and techniques for seed starting indoors and outside, requirements for germination and will take home native seeds to start their own plants.

Tuesday, March 6, 6:30 p.m.:  Michele Walfred, University of Delaware Communication Specialist, will present Snap It and App It, a presentation on photography and creating gorgeous garden portraits and photo journals. This session will examine DSLRs, smart phones, lenses, apps and software as well as an array of gadgets and techniques to turn garden portraits into works of art. Participants are asked to bring their devices to this session.

Tuesday, March 20, 1 p.m.:  Master Gardener, Penny Deiner will share The Idea Garden. Participants will look back on last year’s garden to see whether they want to make small changes or big ones, subtle or profound, a larger garden or a smaller one, primarily annuals or perennials, vegetables or flowers. Deiner will share ideas that have worked in the Extension demonstration garden and in her personal garden.

Tuesday, April 3, 1 p.m.:  Master Gardener Betty Layton will present a workshop on Accessible Gardening entitled Garden Smart, Garden Easy. Learn what tools and techniques are available for the gardener as we age or develop mobility issues.

Tuesday, April 17, 6:30 p.m.:  Author Ruth Clausen will speak on her book, 50 Beautiful Deer Resistant Plants. Keeping a beautiful garden safe from deer is as simple as choosing the right plants. Clausen introduces the most versatile options: white snowdrops that bloom in the spring; shade-loving, electric gold hakone grass; long-blooming Texas sage in vibrant reds, peaches, and pinks; and the feathery foliage of Arkansas blue stars that glows golden in the autumn. Books will be available for purchase at about $20 and Clausen will be available to sign books after the presentation.

Tuesday, April 24, 1 p.m.:  Master Gardener Bill Huxtable will talk about Shade Gardening.  This workshop will help participants decide what plant or plants to use in their garden’s shady areas. There are a number of plants that love the shade from which to choose. Handouts will be available to assist in picking the perfect plant.

Tuesday, May 8, 6:30 p.m.: Master Gardener Tracy Mulvaney will hold a craft workshop called Making Seed Tape Cards and Other Items for Gifting to gardening friends.  Bring your children and grandchildren to this fun workshop. Limit to 25 participants. Fee $5.

Tuesday, May 15, 1 p.m.:  Master Gardener Terry Plummer will present Landscaping with Native Perennials. Make garden life easier with less watering and less fuss. Plant native perennials for a delightful landscape. Plummer will introduce you to a wide variety of native plant materials that will draw insects and the birds that love to eat them.

Pre-register for workshops by contacting Tammy Schirmer at (302) 856-2585, ext. 544 or by email at tammys@udel.edu.

It is Delaware Cooperative Extension’s policy that that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, color, sex, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, veteran or handicap status. If you have special needs that need to be accommodated, please contact the office two weeks prior to the event.

For assistance with home lawn, garden and pest questions, contact:
Sussex County Garden Helpline (302) 856-2585 ext. 535.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Borel Global Fellows Learn Agriculture Science at UD

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

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

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

Susan Gachara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mariam Gharib

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Monica Moriak

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

Erik Ervin New Professor, PLSC Department Chair Profile

Could you give me a little background about yourself?

I grew up in Iowa and I went to Iowa State University as an undergrad in the horticulture department. My specialization was turfgrass management and I got into that because I grew up about two blocks from a golf course. My dad’s a golfer and so the golf course was my babysitter. I started working on the golf course when I was 12, first working in the pro shop and then I graduated to mowing the grass and kept that job all through high school. I’m also a competitive golfer and so it’s fun to have a career doing something I love and working outside.

I ended up at Iowa State and loved being at the University. I loved learning so much I got a minor in philosophy and decided to go to graduate school. I was able to go to Colorado State University with some assistantships and did my Master’s and PhD there.

My Master’s was funded by the Denver Water Board. They’ve always had problems with drought and water scarcity so I looked at which of the three main lawn grass species can be irrigated the smallest amount and remain functional and green throughout the year.

Erik Ervin New Professor, PLSC Department Chair ProfileWe studied buffalograss which is native to the Colorado short grass prairie and was starting to come on as a potential lawn species. It takes 70 to 80 percent less water than standard tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass, which we use in the Mid-Atlantic predominantly. In Colorado, most people were still using Kentucky bluegrass and I showed that tall fescue could use 20 percent less water so a lot of people made a transition to it.

For my PhD, I loved the mountains of Colorado and the outdoors so I was able to stay and I studied a new plant growth regulator, trinexapac-ethyl, that was coming out on the market to cut the vertical growth of lawn or any turfgrass species in half so you don’t have to mow as often. I studied the physiological effects. It inhibits a certain hormone in the plant called gibberellic acid which signals cells and shoots to elongate after mowing. That’s when I started becoming a plant growth regulator/hormone physiology specialist, leading to my first job right out of getting my PhD.

What was your first job after getting your PhD?

I became the Turfgrass Extension specialist and research professor at the University of Missouri and kept working on turfgrass stress physiology and plant growth regulation. Missouri’s a big state. You’ve got some big urban areas like St. Louis and Kansas City and there’s a big need in terms of turfgrass, golf courses, lawns and sports fields.

I developed a good program there as a young scientist and got noticed and recruited to Virginia Tech. I moved there in 2001 and spent 17 years going through the ranks and establishing my program.

Could you talk about your time at Virginia Tech?

I was the main person who taught turfgrass classes and advised the turfgrass specific students and kept a strong research program going. As I moved through my career, I’ve always been interested in how the department, college and the University runs. I was always doing a lot of service and wanted to be involved in some of the decisions, not only within my lab and program, but the whole department and University. So my first step into administration was as  undergraduate student program coordinator. Then I got the opportunity to go into 50 percent administration within the college as assistant dean of academic programs in 2013. That was a way to try out leadership and ramping down my research program a little bit without having to move.

I went through LEAD21 supported by my dean, associate dean and department head at the time. They saw that I wanted to move my career into academic leadership so I went through LEAD21 with Janine Sherrier and Amy Shober. We were the class of 2015. That’s when I got my first exposure to the great people in this department and the University of Delaware.

In 2016, I got the chance to be interim department head at Virginia Tech and served 13 months in that role. My department was crop and soil environmental sciences. I enjoyed being a department head and started to look around for where I could get a job and start anew with a department of excellence that maybe wanted to take me in and help me do good things so I ended up here.

What about the University of Delaware and the Department drew you in?

The department has very strong faculty and they are doing impactful research. I also saw a real need for somebody to come in and help them grow and improve undergraduate programs and that’s something I’d been working on, and thinking about, at Virginia Tech.

I saw the new and developing bachelor of landscape architecture program and I thought that was exciting because many places around the country you’ll see landscape architecture departments that are very theory and design based and don’t have much of a plant and soils emphasis. I saw that they had a really good combination of those things here which is what I believe in. I also saw some excellent young faculty who may be ready to partner with me to think about new majors like sustainable food systems or things that would have some cache with urban and suburban students that I think are a lot of where our UD students are coming from.

I was really impressed with the CANR campus and how all the outdoor classrooms and UD Botanic Garden are all right here. You step out the door and you’ve got immediate experiential learning. You’ve got the botanic gardens and the greenhouses but you’ve also got the dairy, the corn crop right out your door so we’ve got everything in terms of plant and soil science right here whereas other universities, like at Virginia Tech, our students would have to go 15 minutes, 30 minutes to get to the research plots. The other thing I saw once I got here is world class facilities at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI) and the Patrick T. Harker Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Laboratory that are quite a bit better than many other land grant universities.

As I’ve been here the last few weeks and meeting people and touring places, my impressions of the strength of the college and the University and the department have just gotten stronger.

What do you think you’ve learned from past experiences that will help inform your time here as chair? 

I’ve learned how to have a successful individual P.I. program and how to look at the bigger picture of what your department needs across the three missions of the University and the department. As assistant dean of academic programs in the college of ag and life sciences at Virginia Tech, I looked across what it takes to build a strong college within a big University. I’ve learned to appreciate what success looks like and what collaboration looks like from the individual researcher level to the department level to the college level and so I think I have a pretty good background that allows me to figure out the right questions to ask and the right people to start forming partnerships with to move us forward.

Could you talk a little bit about your former research program and any research interests here at UD?

When I got to Virginia Tech, I was replacing a very well-known professor who had a 40-year career. In the last part of his career, he started working on what are now known as bio-stimulants. Since then it’s become a two-billion-dollar industry of organic and natural based products whether they be beneficial bacteria to seaweed extracts to humic substances. I went into that area because some of these bio-stimulants, which are all natural in origin, have effects on plant hormones and therefore plant growth and development and stress physiology. Back in the 90’s and early 2000’s, there wasn’t much science behind these products. They had the reputation of being snake oils that people were trying to peddle.

He had been the first one in turfgrass science to publish refereed journal articles tracking down that some of these products, and especially kelp or seaweed extracts and humic substances which are just various forms of highly decomposed organic matter, improve stress response of turfgrasses and other plants. Part of what he was able to show is that they would boost antioxidant production within the plant which would then help with drought or heat stress.

A large part of my research program at Virginia Tech was spent establishing that there were high levels of certain plant growth promoting hormones in some of these products, especially the seaweed extracts, and that they, in turn, improved the immune response of plants when they were challenged with various stresses.

At UD I am planning on changing my research program to focus more on landscape ecology. There are a lot of golf courses around the country that are into creating native or naturalized meadows in out of play areas to provide a number of ecosystem services such as attracting pollinators. For example, Bidermann golf course, just north of Wilmington at Winterthur, their superintendent reached out and to be certified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary golf course nationally, he’s got native meadows and bee hives on his site so I contacted him and we might put one of our research plots out there.

As part of that, he saw on Twitter that I was coming to this job and so on January 23, he organized a meeting of all Delaware and Philadelphia area superintendents to come and meet me and talk about how as a turfgrass specialist, I can help them to do their jobs better. One of my hobbies and passions is golf, so I’ll be happy to have a big outreach part of my job working with the golf course superintendents on protecting environmental quality on their golf courses.

The other thing I’d like to do in terms of field research is similar to what we had at Virginia Tech where the athletics department funded a graduate research assistantship and that master’s student worked on the ball fields for athletics. It was on the job training and we came up with a master’s research project, sometimes on their ball fields, that tries to answer a question or solve a problem for them.

Besides golf, any other hobbies?

We have dogs and we do a lot of hiking. We’re going to live near White Clay Creek so I’m looking forward to that and my wife and I do a lot of travel. I was in Italy and Kenya and Ecuador last year.

Article by Adam Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Glenn Cook/Entomological Society of America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sky Glow

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

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

Parks and Yards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Doug Tallamy

Video by Jeff Chase

This video can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Extension offers instruction to crop consultants as part of annual Mid-Atlantic Crop School

The University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension teamed with professors and extension professionals from the University of Maryland and other regional land grant universities and the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to offer continuing education credits for certified crop advisers at the Mid-Atlantic Crop School held in late November in Ocean City, Maryland.

The Mid-Atlantic Crop School has been operating for over 20 years and offers continuing education credits over a two-and-a-half-day period in the five areas that certified crop advisers are required to gain knowledge: crop management, pest management, soil and water management, nutrient management and also sessions on professional development or an innovative topic.

Other Universities involved with the Mid-Atlantic Crop School include West Virginia University and Virginia Tech.

UD Extension offers instruction to crop consultants as part of annual Mid-Atlantic Crop SchoolIn addition to offering the certified crop adviser credits, the school also offers Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania nutrient management and pesticide credits for state programs.

Amy Shober, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and a Cooperative Extension specialist, said that there were around 275 participants this year and that the school is mostly geared towards technical service providers, nutrient management plan writers and crop consultants who advise farm clientele and need the credits to achieve or renew their certification.

In addition, Jarrod Miller, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and an extension specialist in agronomy, said that Extension personnel also attend the sessions in order to stay up to date.

“Sometimes you can read papers on certain topics but there’s nothing like sitting in a room with the expert. We get NRCS personnel and representatives from both the Maryland and Delaware departments of Agriculture who show up,” said Miller.

The school features local speakers from regional universities, and also national speakers who talk on topics of national interest.

“Some of the courses are similar to what an undergrad might get at the University of Delaware. It’s basic and applied but other times it’s a recent problem. We have pesticide resistance issues or maybe we’ll have a new method of applying nutrients,” said Miller. “Precision agriculture is a big one so this year we had talks on drones because that’s a newer topic. We also had an economic session which was very popular.”

Other topics covered included salt water intrusion, soil compaction, and managing different pests depending on the crop.

Shober said that the session led by Douglas Beegle, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Agronomy from Pennsylvania State University, on soil acidity and liming was very beneficial.

“He always gives great fundamental talks. Kind of going back to the basics and refreshing everybody’s memories. He gave a great talk this year. I feel like [soil acidity and liming] is a topic that I feel pretty comfortable with and I walked away from that talk with new information,” said Shober.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Jarrod Miller

UDairy Creamery offers winter sale on UD farm-raised Angus beef

The UDairy Creamery is offering a 10 percent discount on all individual cuts of University of Delaware-raised Angus beef available for sale at the Creamery stores in Newark and Wilmington.

All of the Angus beef available comes straight from the UD farm’s herd of Angus cattle raised on the Webb Farm, separate from UD’s Holstein Dairy herd.

Items available include:

  • 18-ounce T-bone steak—$17.99
  • 12-ounce New York strip—$17.99
  • 4 to 6-ounce Angus burger—$9.22
  • 24-ounce porterhouse steak–$23.39
  • 8-ounce sirloin steak—$11.69
  • 16-ounce Delmonico steak—$20.69
  • 8-ounce filet mignon—$16.19
  • 8-ounce iron steak—$11.69
  • 16-ounce skirt steak—$14.39

UDairy Creamery offers winter sale on UD farm-raised Angus beefIn addition, UD farm-raised Angus beef boxes are available as part of the winter sale, which runs through March 30 or while supplies last.

A small box costs $119.99, a reduction from the normal list price of $147.92, and includes two New York strip steaks, two sirloin steaks, two Delmonico steaks and two filet mignon Steaks.

A large box costs $189, a reduction from the normal list price of $239.88, and includes two New York Strip steaks, two sirloin steaks, two Delmonico steaks, two filet mignon steaks, two porterhouse steaks and two T-bone steaks.

For more information on the UDairy Creamery, visit its website or connect with it on Facebook.

Article by Adam Thomas

Delaware Agriculture Week 2018

The Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington will once again serve as the venue for Delaware Agriculture Week, Monday, Jan. 8 through Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. Now in its 13th year, the event draws thousands of attendees — farmers, growers, producers, crop advisors, extension agents and allied agriculture industries from across the Mid-Atlantic region. They will network, listen to the latest research and best practice recommendations, earn continuing education credits, and have an opportunity to visit and meet with more than 90 leading industry exhibitors demonstrating new agricultural technologies and products.

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

“Delaware Ag Week gets better every year, thanks to the important feedback we get from our community on topics they’ve indicated they would like to explore,” said Cory Whaley, University of Delaware agriculture extension agent and chair of the Delaware Agriculture Week planning committee. “Our team works hard to provide valuable information in a format that is both topical and relevant to the needs of our constituents. There is always something new each year.”

Education, networking, best practices the focus of a 13-year tradition, starting Jan. 8The four-day event provides numerous sessions that cover a wide array of topics including presentations by the Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association of Delaware (FVGAD) on small fruits, fresh market and processing vegetables. New this year, FVGAD is offering a special session on Pesticides, Bee Safety and Value of Forage. Additional sessions include small flock and commercial poultry, grain crops, hay and pasture, beef cattle, tile drainage, risk management, and a special session on soil health and fertility.

Additionally, on Wednesday, Jan, 10, a morning session on “Agriculture and the EPA” hopes to open the lines of communication with the agriculture community and the Environmental Protection Agency. The sessions are taught by Cooperative Extension agents and specialists from UD, as well as from neighboring institutions and leading agriculture industry experts.

In addition to the events held in Harrington, the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition (DUFFC) will host a session “The Power of Food: The Importance of Making Food and Agriculture Systems More Robust and Resilient Through Diversity and Inclusion” on Thursday, Jan. 11, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Delaware Center for Horticulture in Wilmington. Networking and refreshments will begin at 5:30 p.m. General admission fee is $5 and registration is required. For more information, visit the Delaware Center for Horticulture, or contact Carrie Murphy at (302) 831-COOP (2667).

Agriculture is Delaware’s largest economic driver, contributing an estimated $8 billion to the First State’s economy each year according to a University of Delaware study. The success and continued growth of Delaware Agriculture Week reflect both the pride and the value of agriculture in the state.

As with last year’s event, the main meeting area will be located in the Exhibit Hall, with additional meetings in the Exhibit Board Room and Commodities Building. A trade show takes place in the Dover Building. Please visit the Delaware Agriculture Week website for details on the session and to view the program book.

Article and photo by Michele Walfred

UD’s Seyfferth co-organizes national networking event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Matt Limmer

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

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

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

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

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

About AFCPE®

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

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UD Cooperative Extension accepts applications for Extension Scholars program

Applications are now being accepted for those interested in becoming 2018 University of Delaware Cooperative Extension scholars.

Now in its 14th year, the Extension Scholars program offers UD students a unique, hands-on 10-week summer experiential learning environment under the guidance of extension agents or specialists.

Interns will work the summer semester from June 4-Aug. 9, 40 hours per week with a $3,770 stipend. Some flexibility in dates/hours may be required.

canr extention scholars orientation townsend hall commons summer 2017During 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.

Any current undergraduate, in the summer following sophomore year and beyond, or graduate students at UD are eligible to participate and opportunities are available in New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties.

Interns will be expected to provide their own transportation, and mileage to and from work is at the intern’s expense. All interns will be expected to participate in the orientation on June 4 and the Service Learning Symposium in August.

The deadline to register for the Extension Scholars program is Wednesday, Dec. 20.

To register to become an Extension Scholar, visit the Cooperative Extension website.

About Cooperative Extension

Cooperative Extension connects the public with university knowledge, research and resources to address youth, family, community and agricultural needs.

The goal of Cooperative Extension is to help individuals, families and communities make informed decisions that can enhance their lives. In so doing, the organization generates and disseminates research-based information, provides focused educational opportunities and builds relationships that create effective solutions.

UD students learn about prescribed burning for wildlife management

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Kathy Atkinson and Evan Krape

UDairy Creamery seeks input from UD community on cheese preferences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Jacob L. Bowman Accepted for national Food Systems Leadership Institute

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

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

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

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

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

Additional information is available at www.fsli.org.

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

Landscape Architecture on Display

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.

Landscape Architecture on DisplayInformation 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.

Article by Adam Thomas

Fulbright Scholar learns research techniques at UD

Visiting Fulbright Scholar Nicolas Carlotto had read many research papers by the University of Delaware’s Jung Youn-Lee during his time studying for his doctorate at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina.

The agrobiotechnology lab in which Carlotto works and his PhD advisor Ken Kobayshi were also trying their best to perform a Drop-And-See (DANS) technique highlighted in one of her research papers but kept running into road blocks when they tried to follow the papers’ detailed instructions.

Kobayshi e-mailed Lee asking for help and her response was that the best way to learn the technique was for her to show one of his students first hand in her lab and so Carlotto applied for a Fulbright Scholarship, in collaboration with Ministry of Education and Sport of Argentina. Once he obtained the scholarship, he made his way from Argentina to Delaware.

Nicolas Carlotto visits from Argentina to learn Drop-and-See research technique from UD’s LeeHe arrived on July 26 for his three-month internship and immediately started working on perfecting the technique of performing a DANS assay.

The DANS assay is a way for researchers to analyze plasmodesmata—or plant communication through cellular channels—permeability in real time.

Lee, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that the technique is exactly as it sounds: researchers drop a membrane permeable, non-fluorescent dye onto the upper side of an intact leaf, then cut off the leaf and look through a confocal microscope to see how much the dye, now fluorescent and membrane impermeable, has spread in the lower side of the leaf. This indicates the aperture of the plasmodesmata, which can be imagined as tubes connecting two cells and indicates how the plant is communicating with itself.

“The spread of the dye indicates how the cells’ communication channel, plasmodesmata, are acting,” said Lee. “If the dye doesn’t spread in a big field, it means that plasmodesmata, the channels are mostly closed so that we can tell how plasmodesmata are active in in-tact plants. That gave us a real handle on measuring the plasmodesmata permeability in real time.”

Carlotto said that he learned from both Lee and Xu Wang, a member of Lee’s lab group and that he was also supported by the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences with funds that let him use the Delaware Biotechnology Institute’s (DBI) Bioimaging Center, an advanced microscopy facility where he has done most of his experiments.

“I learned how to be really consistent with your handling of the experiment. Because perhaps sometimes you don’t focus very well on the health of the plants or on the leaf you want to treat or the time when you set an experiment. You try to do that but sometimes you miss. And coming to a lab where they are really focused on that, it will improve my experience as a scientist,” said Carlotto.

Learning from doing has also helped Carlotto instead of simply trying to learn from reading about the experiment in a paper.

“It’s very different when you see how something is done than when you read about it,” said Carlotto who added that he is excited to show members of his lab how to perform the DANS assay back in Argentina as well as other techniques and tools he worked with at DBI.

As for his time at UD, Carlotto said that it has been a great experience.

“I really like the City of Newark. I’m using the Carpenter Sports Building a lot. I used to swim in Argentina when I was younger and it’s been many years but when I came here and found out about the Carpenter Sports building, I go in to swim and use the machines. UD is really great. The campus is nice and you can really feel and experience the university academic ambience of the United States,” said Carlotto.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Monica Moriak

UD’s Palm-Forster looks to incentivize environmental improvements for farmers

Throughout the United States, toxic algal blooms are wreaking havoc on bodies of water, causing pollution and having harmful effects on people, fish and marine mammals.

One of the main contributors to these algal blooms is excess phosphorus that runs off from agricultural fields and while there has been a lot of efforts in recent years by farmers to improve agricultural management, the problem persists and there is still a lot of work to be done.

In a paper published recently in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, the University of Delaware’s Leah Palm-Forster met with farmers in northwest Ohio to test out different incentives that would promote the use of best management practices (BMPs) to help curb the excess phosphorus runoff from their fields.

UD’s Leah Palm-Forster talks with farmers at the Paulding County Swamp Nature Center in 2013
UD’s Leah Palm-Forster talks with farmers at the Paulding County Swamp Nature Center in 2013

Palm-Forster, assistant professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, collected the data for the study in 2013 while she was a doctoral student at Michigan State University. Palm-Forster and her co-authors—Scott Swinton, professor, and Robert Shupp, associate professor both at Michigan State University—travelled to four different locations and spoke with 49 farmers, looking specifically at farms that could have an impact on Lake Erie, which was hit earlier this year with an algal bloom that stretched over 700 miles.

The researchers used four different incentives for their study—a cash payment, a cash payment with BMP insurance, a tax credit and a certification price premium—by the cost per pound of phosphorus runoff reduction to see which incentives the farmers most preferred.

“For this study, we used an artificial reverse auction, meaning that farmers didn’t have to go back to their farm and actually do any of these practices. We were trying to pilot test these incentives in a controlled environment, so although it was artificial, they actually were receiving real cash payments based on how they performed during the session,” said Palm-Forster.

The farmers had mock farms which were designed to be typical farms in the Lake Erie watershed and they were given information about baseline management practices that they used and then they were given three different practices that they could bid on.

“We learned a couple interesting things. First of all, there didn’t seem to be a lot of differences between the bids for a cash payment or a tax credit which is interesting because it means we might have some flexibility in how we design programs. If there were the ability to create a tax credit that would be comparable, then we may be able to motivate this kind of management change through that mechanism instead of giving cash payments,” said Palm-Forster.

Another surprising result was that the farmers asked for more money for the incentive where they were given a cash payment plus insurance.

“You would expect them to bid less because you’re giving them this insurance for free, so you would expect that they would request less cash in order to adopt a practice but they were very skeptical about how insurance would work in this particular setting,” said Palm-Forster. “We learned in focus groups afterward that they assumed that there were going to be more transaction costs—time, effort, money being spent trying to comply with program rules and just maintain eligibility—and they didn’t view that as being attractive at all,” said Palm-Forster.

Farmers also seemed willing to accept the certification price premium as long as it would be comparable to an equivalent amount of cash payment. Palm-Forster said that the issue there is that if it happened in real life, it wouldn’t be targeted towards only environmentally vulnerable areas.

“If you imagine there’s this certification price premium, and any farmer who is willing to do these practices could be eligible for the premium, that means a farmer that’s on a piece of land that’s not as sensitive in an environmental sense would be getting the same price premium as a farmer that was on a really environmentally vulnerable piece of land, which is not going to result in the most cost-effective use of those dollars,” said Palm-Forster.

One of the most important aspects of this research according to Palm-Forster was that the researchers went out in the world and interacted with actual farmers to hear their preferences.

“Talking to the real decision makers is key. It can be difficult to get farmers to engage with you but it’s really important and we learned so much from working with them in that setting,” said Palm-Forster. “After we did the experiments, we had focus group discussions which let us understand why they were making these decisions in the experiment. This particular paper was enriched by having that understanding of where the farmers were coming from, which was facilitated by the focus groups.”

While this study focused on Lake Erie, it can be applicable to other areas of the country such as the Chesapeake Bay and the Mississippi River Basin.

These sorts of economic experiments are important as policy makers need to get as much information as possible from actual farmers to hopefully one day roll out incentive programs that the majority of farmers prefer.

“You want to do all these things before you try to roll out this type of program because you need to learn what would work and what wouldn’t. This would be one piece of all of that ground work. There are a lot of projects right now in the western basin, a lot of researchers are thinking about this problem, and a lot of farmers are engaging in regional programs to help improve the lake but it’s still just not enough,” said Palm-Forster.

The research was funded by a grant from the Great Lakes Protection Fund.

Article by Adam Thomas

Innovation the focus of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s annual conference

Innovative ideas rarely begin as an “Aha” lightbulb-over the-head-moment, but rather come to life as part of a deliberate process – a navigation with twists and turns which embrace working differently, taking risks, and carving out free time for contemplation. This was the takeaway message at Delaware Cooperative Extension’s First State Innovate event held on Oct. 19 at Delaware State University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Dover.

Delaware Cooperative Extension is a partnership of the First State’s two Land-Grant universities – University of Delaware and Delaware State University. Each fall, extension faculty, specialists, agents and staff convene for a day of networking and professional development. This year, innovation was the focus, empowered by a $10,000 grant from eXtension.org, a national organization dedicated to providing tools, services and enhancing the impact of Land-Grant institutions across the U.S.

The road towards innovation

Approximately 100 extension professionals were introduced to several innovation concepts throughout the conference, starting with the keynote address.

Jamie Seger, director of the Ohio State University’s Extension Educational Technology Unit, and Paul Hill, associate professor at Utah State University in 4-H and Community Development program areas, served as co-keynote speakers.

As active collaborators with eXtension in piloting innovation in extension offices across the country, Hill and Seger champion working differently, most notably with their Educational Technology Learning Network or #EdTechLN, a bi-weekly national conversation on Twitter.

“Popular culture has romanticized how innovation happens,” Seger said in her keynote, adding that tools and technology aren’t always the go-to solutions to foster innovative practices.

“All we need in Extension in order to innovate is to simply work differently,” Seger said. “It’s not about the stuff – it is about a new way of thinking and a new process for working.”

Changing the culture and working differently in extension means understanding the nature of innovation as a process, Seger said. Both defined innovation as a journey.

“It’s a long winding road that goes through peaks and valleys and sometimes turns around on itself, all while existing perilously on the edge,” Seger said.

A culture of innovation must exist within an organization if widespread innovation is to be realized, Seger said.

“Fear of failure leads organizations like extension toward a culture of efficiency,” Hill added. “If failure isn’t an option, then innovation isn’t going to take place. Success cannot happen without failure.”

Hill and Seger emphasized that innovative change needs to come from all levels, from leadership and from within each extension professional.

“We all have the power to create the culture we want in our system.” Seger said.

In the presentation, Hill contrasted the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset.

“A fixed mindset avoids the new and manages risk through analysis and seeks to understand the data. A growth mindset seeks the new, manages risk through action and develops empathy,” Hill said.

“People with fixed mindsets are great at getting pre-determined projects done, but not new projects and programs. They are implementers, but not necessarily innovators,” Hill said.

Innovation ideas

“Creating a culture of innovation begins with the extension professional and with leadership,” said Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of UD Cooperative Extension who along with an endowment from former UD extension director Jan Seitz, offered five teams up to $15,000 in support to put winning ideas in place.

Innovation the focus of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s annual conference
Making Change-Solutions placed first among eight teams and won a $5,000 grant to launch a 4-H Maker Library. From L-R, Jan Seitz, Carol Scott, Beverly Banks, Rene Diaz, Sequoia Rent and team coach from North Dakota State University, Bob Bertsch. Seitz, former UD Director of Delaware Extension funded the first place team through an endowment to UD Cooperative Extension

Earlier this spring, Rodgers and Donna Brown, interim director of DSU Cooperative Extension, invited their staff to form teams to compete for start-up funds to launch their innovation initiatives. Teams were encouraged to form across both institutions and utilize Adobe Kickbox, a tool for creating and deliberating about ideas created by Adobe for their employees and adapted for extension use.

Eight teams accepted the challenge and delivered three-minute pitches on stage and were judged by a panel of six with input from electronic peer voting. The top three teams were:

  • 4-H Afterschool Makers. Team: Bev Banks, DSU, Rene Diaz, UD, Sequoia Rent, UD and Carol Scott, UD. $5,000 to create maker spaces and a maker library for 4-H afterschool youth and for areas where materials and space to create are at a minimum.
  • Aerial Agents. Team: Troy Darden, DSU; Dennis McIntosh, DSU; Michele Walfred, UD; and Cory Whaley, UD. $4,000 for the purchase of two drones for communication and marketing purposes and to create and stock an online library of footage for use by and promotion of extension events and programs.
  • Soil Surfers: Team: John Clendaniel, DSU; Natasha Lamadieu, DSU; and Jenn Volk, UD. $3,000 to deliver integrated extension programming to take a community through assessing a garden site for environmental risks and impacts, growing the produce, and producing safe and healthy meals. Sessions will be recorded and turned into short videos for future communities to use.
  • Other winning teams were Lights, Camera, Extension awarded $2,000 and Wealth and Wellness Warriors with an award of $1,000.

All eight teams were assisted by a creative coach, three of whom were brought to Delaware via the eXtension grant: Bradd Anderson from the University of Missouri, Bob Bertsch from North Dakota State University, and Daphne Richards from Texas A & M University. Joining as coaches from UD were Cyndi Connelly, Christy Mannering and Adam Thomas. Throughout the summer and fall, creative coaches met with teams via technology for consultation.

“Donna, Jan, and I are very excited about the ideas we have heard today,” Rodgers said. “Today’s innovate event is an important first step in working differently and making an impact that will positively affect our extension staff and our communities in Delaware.”

During the conference, several opportunities to explore innovation practices took place including a panel discussion webcasted through eXtension’s online learn platform, a “Steal My Idea Showcase” featuring a circuit of 12 innovator mini-presentations.

Friends of Extension Awards

Brown and Rodgers also presented the Friend of Extension Award recognitions for UD and DSU.

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

University of Delaware

  • Hetty Francke. A volunteer with extension for 30-plus years, Francke became a Master Gardener in 1987 and a Master Composter in 1989 and she served as volunteer compost education coordinator for Delaware 4-H.
  • Lazy Boy Farm. This family farm operation in Middletown has produced fresh cabbage, potatoes, soybean, corn and wheat since 1956. Brothers Ken and Chris Wicks, and their respective children Anna Wicks, a UD Alumna, and Michael, comprise the three-generation farm.
  • Karen Sommers.  A Master Food Educator (MFE) since 2011 with the Family and Consumer Science program, Sommers is valued for her tireless wisdom and volunteer efforts, with 175 hours served in the first half of 2017 alone.
  • Pat and Alex Bohinski and their staff at Southern States provide advanced training to Delaware Master Gardeners by participating in numerous meetings covering a variety of topics to keep Master Gardeners informed with new lawn and garden products, trends and problems.

Delaware State University

  • Pastor William Grimes. Under his leadership at the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Dover, Grimes opened his 4,200 square foot outreach center and collaborates with Delaware Cooperative Extension, helping to promote a healthy lifestyle through community dinners and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).
  • Kesha Braunskill works for the Delaware Forest Service and serves on the state’s Urban and Community Forest Council. Braunskill offers training on tree diseases and diagnosis, tree management, tree plantings and jobsite safety.
  • New Hope Recreation and Development Center, Inc. This organization led by Kendal and Delores Tyre bring STEM education to youth they serve during afterschool and summer camp programs. The Tyre’s center and volunteer staff provide a safe place for youth where students can learn and improve their academic and social skills.

Article by Michele Walfred

Photo by Jackie Arpie

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Jennifer McCarthy

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Large Animal Emergency Rescue Workshops held on Webb Farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Amy Biddle