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UD Cooperative Extension teams with Molina Foundation to give away free books to Delaware youth

University of Delaware Cooperative Extension has received a Books Across Delaware grant from the Molina Foundation to distribute 7,000 free new children’s books ― enough to fill a library shelf a football field long ― to children throughout the First State. The colorful children’s pleasure-reading books, activity book and workbooks, featuring fun themes and characters, were recently delivered to the UD Extension facility in Newark. Covering a range of grades and age levels, the books are being given out by UD Extension through its Delaware 4-H Program to children from low-income, at-risk communities for reading and family learning time as the new school year continues into the fall. UD Cooperative Extension teams with Molina Foundation to give away free books to Delaware youthThe Molina Foundation, based in Long Beach, California, awarded the Books Across Delaware grant as part of its back-to-school literacy initiative taking place in select regions of the country including Virginia and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The initiative is designed to promote independent learning and help combat the “summer slide” where students may have lost academic ground. Students can drop an average of two to three months in reading and math skills over the break — a loss that can significantly impact their future academic and economic success. The 7,000-book grant has a total estimated value of $57,000. This book grant is a wonderful way to honor the continued good work of Cooperative Extension in Delaware,” said Martha Bernadett, Molina Foundation President and Founder.  “We believe in how they provide children and families across the state with valuable learning programs, resources and opportunities. We absolutely endorse what they do and we know that our books and learning materials can help them in their mission.” The delivery was made in close partnership with UD Extension and 4-H program administrators in Newark. This is the second book grant in two years awarded by The Molina Foundation to UD Extension for a statewide campaign. In 2016, a total of 30,000 books were awarded. UD Extension, which provides research-based programs and services to support local youth, families, agriculture, businesses and communities across the state, plans to continue coordinating the giveaway of books over the next several weeks and throughout the fall season at various 4-H activities and community events throughout the state. Books Across Delaware is a worthwhile effort that closely aligns with the Extension’s work and mission, stated Doug Crouse, the State 4-H Program Leader.  “We are happy to partner with The Molina Foundation,” he said. “We believe that there is special value in making sure that books and reading are part of every child’s life. This is a heartfelt opportunity. Handing out these books will help thousands of Delaware kids get a good start to lifelong learning and success.” The Molina Foundation is a national nonprofit organization. Since its inception in 2004, it has partnered with more than 2,000 organizations and schools around the country to promote literacy and wellness. In addition, it has donated more than 5 million new children’s books in English and Spanish, and hosted hundreds of free workshops and programs for educators, families, and children.

UD’s Michelle Rodgers named National Project Director for Culture of Health Initiative

Following the $4.6 million grant awarded to National 4-H Council by the nation’s largest health philanthropy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), Michelle Rodgers has been named the new National Project Director of RWJF’s partnership with National 4-H Council and Cooperative Extension System (CES). The grant aims to improve the health of 1,000 communities across the nation over the next 10 years. This will involve engaging all the land-grant universities that serve every county and parish in the United States. The partnership will also include and empower young people to help local Health Councils implement action plans that ensure all community members can be healthier at every stage of life. Rodgers explained that one of the unique aspects of Cooperative Extension’s partnership with RWJF is that it “taps into everything that the Cooperative Extension System has done well since we were formed over a century ago as the national education and community development program of the nation’s land-grant universities,” said Rodgers.  “When we bring together Cooperative Extension and America’s philanthropy leader in health, it is amazing to envision the transformative impact we will have in communities throughout the country.” UD’s Michelle Rodgers named National Project Director for Culture of Health InitiativeAs Associate Dean and Director, Rodgers provides overall leadership for programs, personnel and the organizational development of the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. She is the immediate past chair of the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) and served as co-chair of the ECOP Health Task Force. Prior to joining UD, Rodgers spent five years as associate director at Michigan State University Extension. Rodgers also worked at Penn State University as an agent and regional director in Cooperative Extension. “We are thrilled to have Dr. Rodgers in this role as our college, and many others across the nation, embrace the One Health and Healthy Communities concepts,” said Mark Rieger, Dean of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). “She has done an outstanding job of leading the nationwide effort for Cooperative Extension to partner with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on these initiatives, and I know that the project is in very capable hands.” The partnership will focus on three key elements to accomplish transformational change: (1) designing a sustainable network structure to promote health and well-being in communities across the nation; (2) creating and disseminating tools for healthier communities; and (3) launching a training curriculum for local community advocates. This approach will substantially increase the impact of the local Health Councils to drive impactful, sustainable outcomes. Dan Rich, University Professor of Public Policy and Director, Community Engagement Initiative, the University of Delaware, noted that Rodgers’ national leadership role with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will also “greatly strengthen UD’s new Partnership for Healthy Communities, in which Dr. Rodgers also has a lead role, and will be launched officially by President Dennis Assanis at a knowledge-based conference on Strengthening Partnerships in Health and Education: Delaware and the Nation, on October 30 at Clayton Hall.”

CANR recognizes recipients of Worrilow, Distinguished Alumni awards

Seven graduates of the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented with honors – the George M. Worrilow Award as well as three Distinguished Alumni Awards and three Distinguished Young Alumni Awards – during a ceremony held Friday, Oct. 20, as part of Homecoming festivities. The awards are given based on a clear record of outstanding career accomplishments, service and leadership to the profession, and community service, including service to UD. George M. Worrilow Award James L. Glancey was presented with CANR’s George M. Worrilow Award, named for the dean of the college from 1954-65 whose career was dedicated to better agriculture and better agricultural education. James Glancey receives the Worrilow AwardIt is given annually by the Ag Alumni Association to a graduate of the college who has exhibited outstanding service to agriculture. Glancey is a professor with appointments in the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Glancey’s work includes the development of new or improved products and automated processes, the forensics of product failures, as well as a better understanding of the underlying physics of many natural and man-made phenomena. His research utilizes a combination of analysis and simulations, prototyping, and testing. Cooperation with several centers on campus is typical including the Center for Biomechanical Engineering Research and the Center for Composite Materials. Glancey and his students have co-authored more than 120 manuscripts and papers since 1997 and several students have received national awards from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Society for the Advancement of Material and Processing Engineering (SAMPE). Distinguished Alumni Robert Cohen receives distinguished alumni awardRobert Cohen has had a distinguishable career both as a practitioner and business entrepreneur in veterinary sciences. Cohen attended the University of Delaware and graduated with a Degree with Distinction in 1972. He went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and has been a practicing veterinarian for over 40 years. During his tenure there, he was awarded the American Animal Hospital Association Student Achievement award for his outstanding scholastic and clinical performance. He continued his post-graduate veterinary medical and surgical training at the world’s largest animal hospital, the Animal Medical Center (AMC) of New York. He eventually became the head of the section of cardiology and director of clinics at the world-class facility. While at the AMC, he founded, with another veterinary cardiologist, a high-tech innovative computer based cardiac and internal medicine consulting service for veterinarians. This venture evolved into the largest provider of veterinary consulting services in the world. The company, CardioPet went public in 1984. The AMC and Cohen sold their interests in that company in 1987. Currently, Cohen owns Bay Street Animal Hospital, a six-doctor veterinary practice on Staten Island in New York. Ronald Ferriss receives distinguished alumni awardRonald Ferriss graduated from the University of Delaware in 1975 with a B.S. degree in Plant Science, and earned his M.S. (’79) and Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics (’80), both at the University of Minnesota. He has led an exemplary career in plant breeding. In 1979, Ferriss initiated his career as a corn breeder in Minnesota with Northrup King Co., an international seed company. From 1983 to 1990, he served as area manager for corn breeding and managed Seed Production Research and Agronomic Research functions. From 1990-1996, Ferriss served as Director of Corn Breeding, North America managing corn breeding programs and off-season nurseries across 15 locations. In 1996-1997, as Sandoz merged with Ciba Geiger to form Novartis, he led the integration of the corn breeding research programs into a single functional unit and until 1999, was Global Head of Corn Breeding. As the power and complexity of plant breeding increased, Ferriss focused his leadership efforts as Head of Global Inbred Line Development and Hybrid Identification. Ferriss continued in that role as Novartis and Astra-Zeneca agribusinesses merged to create Syngenta. In 2002, Ferriss became Director of Strategy Facilitation, Seeds Product Development. Ferriss joined Syngenta’s Legal Team as Head of Product Clearance and License Compliance from 2006 to 2012, followed by Head, Global Germplasm Contract Compliance from 2013 until retiring in December 2014. David Morris receives distinguished alumni awardDavid Morris is currently the Business Integration Leader, leading integration activities for the agriculture division during the Dow DuPont merger. Morris holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Entomology and Plant Pathology from the University of Delaware and a Master of Science Degree in Entomology from Virginia Tech. He joined the Dow Chemical Company in September 1982 and has held positions as field sales representative, market research analyst, product marketing manager, district sales manager, human resources manager, group marketing manager, global business leader, six sigma champion, global commercial processes leader, Urban Pest Management Commercial Leader, U.S. Government Affairs and Public Affairs Leader and most recently U.S. Seed Affiliates Leader. Morris currently represents Dow AgroSciences on the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Distinguished Young Alumni Sara-Beth Bittinger receives distinguished young alumni awardSara-Beth Bittinger has served as the vice president of the Allegany County Board of Education since 2010, when then Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley appointed her to the position. She is currently the Director of Assessment and Institutional Research at Frostburg State University in Western Maryland and previously served as the Director of Institutional Research at Allegany College of Maryland. Bittinger’s area of expertise is in analytics and managing institutional data that reports to external and internal constituents, information essential for critical decision-making. Bittinger received her Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Frostburg State University (FSU) and her Master of Science degree in Applied Economics from the University of Delaware. In 2017, she earned her Doctorate in Education from FSU. Phung Luu receives distinguished young alumni awardPhung Luu owns and operates Behavior and Training Solutions, an animal and staff training consultancy company; and Animal Behavior and Conservation Connections, a free-flight bird show production company. As a graduate of the University of Delaware, Luu developed a foundation for animal care and wildlife education. Working on the University farm provided practical understanding for working with chickens and corn. Fostered by a passion for working with animals from an early age, he has been training animals for over twenty-five years. Luu’s life mission is to connect people to nature and wildlife and he does this through the production of free-flight bird programs presented at schools, state parks, and zoos throughout the country. These bird programs have been featured at the Philadelphia Zoo, the Brandywine Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, and the North Carolina Zoo to name a few. Not only are the shows entertaining and educational, they raise awareness and money to support conservation projects for wild birds. Joseph Rogerson receives distinguished young alumni awardJoseph Rogerson is a Certified Wildlife Biologist and has worked for the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife for nearly 12 years. Currently, he is the program manager for Species Conservation and Research where he oversees the conservation and management of the state’s game and nongame wildlife and plant communities. Before being promoted to this position 2.5 years ago, Rogerson spent the previous nine years as Delaware’s Deer and Furbearer Biologist. Prior to working for the Division, he worked for nearly a year with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services as a Wildlife Specialist and before that he received his B.S. degree in wildlife and fisheries resources from West Virginia University in 2003 and a M.S. degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Delaware in 2005.

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

University of Delaware doctoral student Desiree Narango is researching trees and shrubs planted in the lawns of homeowners throughout the Washington D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia areas to assess how those choices are impacting food webs. Narango, a doctoral student working with Doug Tallamy, professor of entomology in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, is also associated with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and works through a citizen-science program called “Neighborhood Nest Watch.” Narango is co-advised by Pete Marra, director of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Through her research, Narango looks at breeding birds and the food resources they need, such as insects and caterpillars. Different trees vary in how much food they provide birds and Narango said she has a network of homeowners in the D.C. metropolitan area that allowed her to use their yards for her study. Over the course of the four-year study, Narango has looked at 203 yards. One thing that has stood out to her is the sheer number of different trees that are planted in these yards. UD’s Desiree Narango looks at how residential yards impact food webs“We focus on woody plants—so trees and shrubs—and we’ve documented over 375 different species in these 203 yards. Which is crazy,” said Narango who added that it became apparent quickly that some trees are better than others with regards to sustaining food webs. “We just had a paper come out in the journal of Biological Conservation where we show that native trees are better at providing caterpillars for birds which is a really important food resource,” said Narango. “Native trees are better, hands down, but even among the native trees, there’s some that are better than others so things like oaks and cherries and elms are highly productive for caterpillars so they have lots of good food for the birds.” Narango added that there are a lot of non-native plants—such as zelkova, ginkgo, and lilac—that don’t provide any resources for breeding birds. “Those species are true non-natives so they’re not related to anything here and they provide almost nothing in terms of caterpillars for birds,” said Narango. “There’s also species like Japanese cherry and Japanese maple that are non-native but are related to our native maples and cherries. We found that those species have an average of 40 percent fewer caterpillars than the native versions of that tree. If you had a choice between a black cherry and a Japanese cherry and if you’re interested in food for birds, then you should choose the native version.” Narango said that a problem home owners may face when trying to select native versions of plants is that a lot of the big box stores don’t carry them. “There are a lot of really great small nurseries that have many native plants that are productive in terms of caterpillars and are also very beautiful,” said Narango. “You definitely don’t have to sacrifice beauty to get plants that are ecologically beneficial. There’s a lot to choose from so you can have beauty, you can have fruit and then also have food for birds too. It’s all interconnected.” As for the most eye-opening aspect of her research, Narango said that it has to be the tremendous amount of diversity in bugs and birds in people’s back yards. “A lot of people think you need to go to the woods to see beautiful butterflies or beautiful birds but they’re actually in people’s back yards too,” said Narango. In the group’s bird surveys, they documented 98 different bird species. Narango focuses on the Carolina Chickadee and said that she would follow individual birds around to see what trees they were choosing. One of the major findings in her paper is that the number of caterpillar species a plant supports predicts how strongly chickadees prefer it. “When these birds would choose a tree, all the other birds in the neighborhood were choosing those trees too so we would see these amazing warblers that don’t breed in Delaware or in D.C. but are migrating through and they’re using all these suburban habitats on their way north. In a way, our chickadees were telling us what all of the birds want during that period,” said Narango. As a landscaper herself, Narango added that it was surprising to see how much life happened in her own back yard when she started planting the right species. “I planted this flower called ironweed and the first year it was there, I had the specialist bees that use that flower and then I have caterpillars in my shrubs and it’s really cool how quickly you can see life be attracted to your yard when you plant the right species,” said Narango. Article by Adam Thomas Photo courtesy of Desiree Narango and Doug Tallamy

Water Symposium participants discuss land use legacy, water quality, and stream restoration

The fourth annual Water Symposium was held on Friday, September 29, at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus in Townsend Hall. The annual event provides an excellent opportunity for faculty and students affiliated with the interdisciplinary Water Science and Policy (WSP) Graduate Program to present their research, share ideas with peers, and network with professionals from industry, government, and nonprofit organizations. Around 70 people attended the symposium and represented a mix of academia, industry, and government agencies. The symposium was inaugurated by CANR Dean Mark Rieger, who praised the rapid progress and accomplishments of the interdisciplinary program since its recent start in 2012. “These are the types of graduate programs that President Assanis would like to see and which meet the vision of the grand challenges of the university,” said Rieger, adding that it was great to see alumni from the program attending and giving back and supporting the program. Shreeram Inamdar, director of the WSP program, said that “the program is doing very well and is on a strong upward trajectory. The program has graduated 13 students with a 100 percent employment rate.” Water Symposium participants discuss land use legacy, water quality, and stream restorationStudents who graduated from the WSP program are employed in institutions such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), Maryland Environmental Service, and Skelly & Loy Inc., to name a few. Inamdar said “the program currently has 23 students that includes the largest incoming class of 13 new students in the fall of 2017.” It was also particularly noteworthy that all students in the program were fully funded through assistantships, he said. The plenary talks for the symposium were given by two highly distinguished, world recognized, and widely respected scientists – Dorothy Merritts and Robert Walter, who are professors at Franklin and Marshall University in Lancaster, PA. Their groundbreaking work on colonial era mill dams and legacy sediments, which was published in the prestigious journal Science in 2008, dramatically changed how scientists see and interpret the geomorphology of fluvial systems in the Mid-Atlantic and eastern U.S. Their work has been cited widely and they have received numerous awards and recognition for their cutting-edge research.  For example, in 2008 both of them were cited by the Pennsylvania State Senate Resolution 283 for outstanding contributions to stream restoration and water quality improvements in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Water Symposium participants discuss land use legacy, water quality, and stream restorationIn her talk, Merritts highlighted numerous examples of mill dams in Chester and Lancaster counties and how they shaped stream terraces and floodplains in the region. “There were hundreds and hundreds of mill dams on creeks in this region, in some cases, every 1 to 2 miles along the creek,” she said. They recalled their discovery and how the light bulb went on as they saw the high stream banks immediately upstream of a breached mill dam—Denlinger’s mill—with pronounced horizontal layering of fine streambank sediments. Walter added “the regular, horizontal layering of fine sediments was not what one would expect in stream floodplains but rather under the quiescent settling conditions in ponded waters.” Merritts and Walters were able to make this connection and explain the presence of the vertical, eroding, streambanks, a puzzle that had previously eluded many distinguished and well-recognized geomorphologists. Merritts also pointed to the pre-colonial sediment layers, many feet below the light brown colonial-era legacy sediments that were still apparent along the streambanks. These soil layers included the Pleistocene gravel overlain by a by a dark, organic rich layer, filled with decaying, and in some cases, still intact leaves and organic matter from a bygone era. Walter discussed the significance of the legacy sediments for contemporary water quality, mitigation and restoration strategies, and management implications for the Chesapeake Bay. Interestingly, in recent years, Pennsylvania is leading the nation in removal of low head dams.  How erosion of streambank legacy sediments and the removal of mill dams impacts stream sediment loads is a question that still needs to be addressed and is a top priority for the region’s natural resource agencies. Walter presented results from the restoration of legacy sediments that was implemented at Big Spring Run in Lancaster, PA. The restoration involved complete removal of streambank legacy sediments for a selected reach with conversion to a tussock-sedge wet meadow. “This restoration yielded immediate benefits – reduction in stream flow velocities and sediment loads, decreased nutrient concentrations and water temperatures, and enhanced habitat conditions,” he said adding that the Big Spring Run restoration could be one of the models to follow for restoration of landscapes with legacy sediments. Following the plenary talks, 20 WSP students presented their research through short, 2 to 5 minute talks.  The talks ranged from science topics such as gas fluxes from coastal wetlands and biochar use for water quality, to policy and behavioral science issues such as transboundary water conflicts, and consumer attitudes to drinking water quality. The full program and detailed description of the presentations is available here. Water Symposium participants discuss land use legacy, water quality, and stream restorationThe last part of the symposium included a panel discussion by WSP alumni in which they presented their personal experiences from the work place and tips and advice to current students.  WSP alums who took time out of their busy schedules to attend the symposium included – Jennifer Egan (PhD, 2015), Kate Hutelmyer (MS, 2014), Alex Soroka, Kelsey Moxey and Richard Rowland (all MS, 2016). The alums emphasized the need to develop professional connections with industry early and to follow up on job applications but to not panic about the job search. They also suggested that students make sure they learn valuable tools such as GIS, programming, and statistical techniques. The alums also shared with the current students the new job openings in their companies.

Research explores the positives and negatives of food labels

When customers walk down aisles of grocery stores, they are inundated with labels such as organic, fair-trade and cage free, just to name a few. Labels such as these may be eye-catching but are often free of any scientific basis and stigmatize many healthy foods, a new University of Delaware-led study found. The paper published recently in the journal Applied Economics Perspectives and Policy examined the good, the bad and the ugly of food labeling to see how labels identifying the process in which food was produced positively and negatively influenced consumer behavior. Research explores the positives and negatives of food labelsBy reviewing over 90 academic studies on consumer response to process labels, the researchers found that while these labels satisfy consumer demand for quality assurances and can create value for both consumers and producers, misinterpretation is common and can stigmatize food produced by conventional processes even when there is no scientific evidence those foods cause harm. For the poor, in particular, there is danger in misunderstanding which food items are safe, said Kent Messer, the study’s lead author and the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Career Development Chair for the Environment. “That has me worried about the poor and those who are food insecure,” said Messer, who is also director of the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “Because now you’re trying to make everything a high-end food choice and frankly, we just want to have healthy food choices, we don’t need to have extra labels that scare away people.” Process labels, by definition, focus on the production of a food, but largely ignore important outcomes of the process such as taste or healthiness. According to Messer and his study co-authors, policy changes could help consumers better understand their choices. They argue governments should not impose bans on process labels but rather encourage labels that help document how the processes affect important quality traits, such as calorie count. “Relying on process labels alone, on the other hand, is a laissez faire approach that inevitably surrenders the educational component of labeling to mass media, the colorful array of opinion providers, and even food retailers, who may not always be honest brokers of information,” the researchers wrote.

The Good

With regards to the positive impact process labels have on consumers, Messer said that consumers are able to more freely align their purchasing decisions with their values and preferences. If, for example, a consumer wants to buy fair trade coffee, they are able to do so with greater ease. “The good part is that process labels can help bridge the trust between the producer and the consumer because it gives the consumer more insight into the market,” said Messer. “New products can be introduced this way, niche markets can be created, and consumers, in many cases, are willing to pay more for these products. It’s good for industry, consumers are getting what they want, and new players get to find ways of getting a higher price.”

The Bad

The bad part is that consumers are already in the midst of a marketplace filled with information that can be overwhelming because of the sheer amount of product choices and information available. In addition, when most consumers go to buy food, they are often crunched for time. “Human choice tends to be worse when you put time constraints on it,” said Messer. “Maybe you’ve got a child in the aisle with you and now you’re adding this new label and there’s lots of misinterpretation of what it means. The natural label is a classic one which means very little, yet consumers assume it means more than it does. They think it means ‘No GMO’ but it doesn’t. They think it means it is ‘organic’ but it isn’t. This label is not helping them align their values to their food, and they’re paying a price premium but not getting what they wanted to buy.” Messer said that another problem are “halo effects,” overly optimistic misinterpretation of what a label means. “If you show consumers a chocolate bar that is labeled as ‘fair trade’, some will tell you that it has lower calories,” Messer said. “But the label is not about calories. Consumers do this frequently with the ‘organic’ label as they think it is healthy for the consumer. Organic practices may be healthier for the farm workers or the environment, but for the actual consumer, there’s very little evidence behind that. You’re getting lots of mixed, wrong messages out there.”

The Ugly

Like halo effects, the ugly side of food processing labels comes into play when labels sound like they have a positive impact but really have a negative one. A label such as “low food miles” might sound nice but could actually be causing more harm than good. “Sometimes, where food is grown doesn’t mean that it’s actually the best for climate change,” said Messer. Hot house tomatoes grown in Canada, for example, might have low food miles for Canadian consumers but it’s probably far better environmentally — because of all the energy expended in creating tomatoes in an energy intensive hot house in Canada — to grow the tomatoes in Florida and then ship them to Canada. “If you just count miles and not true energy use, you can get people paying more money for something that’s actually going the opposite of what they wanted, which is to get a lower carbon footprint,” said Messer. He added that the ugly side of food labeling is that a lot of fear is being introduced into the marketplace that isn’t based on science. “When you start labeling everything as ‘free of this’ such as ‘gluten free water,’ you can end up listing stuff that could never have been present in the food in the first place,” Messer said. “These ‘free of’ labels can cause unnecessary fear and cast the conventionally produced food in a harsh, negative light.” Since the vast majority of the food market is still conventionally produced and is the lower cost product, there is a danger in taking that safe food and calling it unsafe because of a few new entrants into the food market. Messer also said that there is evidence that food companies are getting worried about investing in science and technology because they don’t know how the consumer is going to respond or how marketers are going to attack their food product because it’s new and different and, therefore, can be labeled as bad or dangerous. “We’ve got a lot of mouths to feed in our country and around the world,” Messer said. “We are currently able to feed so many because of advances in agricultural science and technology. If we’re afraid of that now, we have a long-term impact on the poor that could be quite negative in our country and around the world. That’s when I start thinking these process labels could really be ugly.” Co-authors on the paper include Marco Costanigro, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Colorado State University, and Harry M. Kaiser, the Gellert Family Professor of Applied Economics in the Department of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University.
Article by Adam Thomas
Illustration by Jeff Chase
This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

JMP Statistical Workshop Scheduled for November 1

A two-part JMP Statistical Software Workshop co-sponsored by the Biostatistics Core Facility in the College of Health Sciences and the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics will be offered on Wednesday, Nov. 1 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The morning session will take place in the Atrium of the STAR Health Sciences Complex; the afternoon session will be directly across South College Avenue in 132 Townsend Hall. Faculty and graduate students with general interest in JMP capabilities or specific interest in enhancing their statistical skills are invited to register. Topics covered will range from very basic descriptive summaries to advanced analyses. JMP is a SAS product characterized as a family of statistical discovery tools tailored to meet specific analysis needs. It is visually based, interactive, comprehensive and extensible. It can be used as a front or back end with R and Matlab, and JMP can create and run SAS code if a SAS connection is set up. JMP is available for free, courtesy of the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, to members of the University Community through UD Deploy and runs on both Macs and PCs. Since its introduction on UD Deploy in 2012-2013, campus downloads have increased each year, with well over 4,000 in 2017-2018. Ease of use and powerful analytics make it a good choice for teaching and research. Attend either one or both sessions as you like. Pizza provided for lunch. The sessions will continue in the afternoon in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. We encourage you to download JMP PRO before the workshop if you wish to follow along with the presentation, but this is optional. If you have no prior familiarity with JMP, we encourage you to view the Beginners Tutorial linked from the JMP PRO help menu. Registrants will be sent a link to access data featured during the workshop. MORNING SESSION – STAR Atrium 10:00     Exploratory Data Analysis and Data Visualization Featuring Graph Builder and Distribution platforms Dynamically linked interactive graphics Root cause analysis Reporting and Sharing Results – exporting HTML5, Flash Creating Web Reports and Dashboards 11:00     Decision Trees Decision Tree – classification for categorical or regression for continuous responses Bootstrap Forest – averaging many trees (JMP PRO) Boosted Trees – combining a sequence of small tree (JMP PRO) 11:30     Text Exploration Visualizing Text Data Working with the Document Term Matrix Creating and Modeling with Document and Topic Vectors (JMP PRO) 12:00     LUNCH – free pizza AFTERNOON SESSION – 132 Townsend  1:00       JMP as Your Data Hub Easily get data into JMP – from Excel, Text, Internet & Data Bases without coding Cleanup messy and missing data – recode, outlier detection, data imputation Connect JMP with SAS, R, MATLAB Publish models in Python, C, Java Script, SQL or SAS (JMP PRO) 1:30       Building Better Models Using Robust Data Mining Methods to Prevent Overfitting Honest Assessment Method – Train, Validation (Tune), and Test Data subsets For smaller data sets use K-fold cross-validation or Penalization criteria 2:00       Regression Methods Ordinary Least Squares, Stepwise Regression, Logistic Regression, General Linear Models Generalized (Penalized) Regression (JMP PRO) 2:30       Neural Networks Single layer of nodes with sigmoidal HTanh activation function More flexible dual-layer of nodes plus Linear and Gaussian activation functions (JMP PRO) Boosted neural network 3:00       Adjourn For more information, visit the UD events website.

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

The world’s coastal ecosystems — areas such as tidal marshes and mangrove forests — have the potential to store and sequester large amounts of carbon, collectively known as blue carbon. Because of their importance to the global carbon cycle, former President Barack Obama in 2014 made research on understanding carbon dynamics in these coastal ecosystems a priority. Despite their role as potential sinks – or storehouses – of carbon, it is still unclear how different biophysical processes influence carbon dynamics in these ecosystems. Using funds from his recently awarded National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, the University of Delaware’s Rodrigo Vargas will establish an outdoor laboratory at the St. Jones Reserve, which is a component of the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR) and part of the National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERR). His research efforts will contribute to a better understanding of vertical and lateral carbon fluxes — the amount of carbon exchanged between the land and the atmosphere, and the amount of carbon exchanged between the land and the coastal ocean — in tidal coastal wetlands. Through the prestigious NSF Career Award, Vargas, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), also will work to empower minority students by integrating them into research, educational and outreach activities, and will enhance social capital by strengthening the network of students, science professionals and researchers in salt marshes across Delaware and beyond. Vertical and lateral fluxes UD’s Rodrigo Vargas receives National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development AwardVertical carbon fluxes involve the amount of carbon going up and into the atmosphere or from the atmosphere into the ecosystem and will be estimated by measuring fluxes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4); two important greenhouse gases. “The net exchange of CO2 between the atmosphere and the land-surface is called the net ecosystem exchange,” Vargas said. “If the net ecosystem exchange is negative, it means that CO2 is being absorbed by the ecosystem. If it’s positive, it means that CO2 is being released into the atmosphere, and the way we quantify that is with the eddy covariance technique that measures the exchange of mass and energy between the atmosphere and the land-surface.” In this specific site, the researchers are measuring the exchange of CO2 and CH4 between the ecosystem and the atmosphere using the first eddy covariance tower established in the state of Delaware since 2015. The establishment of this tower was partially supported from grants Vargas received from Delaware’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NASA-EPSCOR), the Delaware Coastal Programs (DCP), and a CANR seed grant. The tower is part of the AmeriFlux network, a consortium of scientists using a network to work with the eddy covariance technique, measuring fluxes of CO2 and CH4 at multiple sites across the Americas. In addition to the vertical fluxes, Vargas explained that is also important to account for lateral fluxes in salt marshes, as well. Because they’re located in the transition between land and ocean—the terrestrial-aquatic interface—the challenge for salt marshes is that their biogeochemistry is also influenced by tides, which bring matter and energy in as they rise. When tides retreat, they pull out matter and energy, which makes it very challenging to understand the carbon cycle on these ecosystems. “Recent studies have shown that there’s substantial lateral carbon exports from these ecosystems toward the coastal ocean and that is something that we also would like to understand,” said Vargas. “It’s a very large challenge and we are starting studies with the overarching goal to understand how different biophysical factors regulate vertical and lateral carbon fluxes in tidal salt marshes.” Remote cameras The site is also equipped with digital cameras that are able to take automatic pictures of the ecosystem to study plant phenology. Plant phenology informs about the periodic life cycles of plants such as flowering or the timing of leaf-out. The images are taken in color and also in infrared, which allows the researchers to see the greening of the ecosystem. That information is used to understand the carbon dynamics of ecosystems based on repeated photography, referred to as near-surface remote sensing. “You can see the greenness index to quantify how green the ecosystem is and it peaked by mid-August this year, and then you start losing that greening as part of the annual vegetation cycle. It is also a fantastic opportunity for citizen science and outreach,” said Vargas. The digital camera not only tells the researchers about the greening of the site but also about events they might not have otherwise been able to research, such as when major flood events occurred in 2015 and 2016. “One flood event was caused by the surge of Hurricane Joaquin. With the cameras, we were able to monitor how high and extensive the water level was. In 2016, we had another flood, but this flood was not because of ocean storms, it was because of an inland storm that brought water through the St. Jones River and flooded our site,” said Vargas. All images are available online in real-time as part of the PhenoCam network to help improve transparency and data sharing among the broader scientific community. Educational component Vargas will also use the award to provide eighth grade students — who are usually learning about the carbon cycle through their class curriculum — a chance to get a hands-on learning experience related to carbon. Vargas plans to work with professionals at DNREC and the St. Jones Reserve, as well as with Amy Trauth-Nare, senior associate director of UD’s Professional and Continuing Studies, to develop a module using phenomena driven instruction — or place-based instruction, such as learning at the St. Jones Reserve — to specifically address topics on carbon and energy exchange in ecosystems. In addition, Vargas is looking to create opportunities for undergraduate minority students participating in UD’s Associate in Arts Program (AAP) to promote academic success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. “One of the things that I have been working on since I started at UD is to empower underrepresented students. By providing scholastic opportunities and enhancing social capital, we strengthen the network of students, science professionals and researchers in Delaware and beyond,” said Vargas. “I am Hispanic and Hispanic professors are a minority at UD, and Hispanic students are also a minority at UD. Thus, I have a strong commitment to supporting underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields. That’s a big push on this proposal.” Vargas will work with David Satran, director of the Associate in Arts Program, to customize opportunities for the AAP students, and will incorporate his current graduate students as mentors for the AAP students. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Evan Krape

UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to host start of speaker series

The University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) will host a panel discussion entitled “Building a Sustainable Agriculture” on Tuesday, Nov. 7, from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Roselle Center for the Arts. The discussion is the first in a series initiated by CANR Dean Mark Rieger, who asked Ed Kee, an executive in residence with the college and former Delaware Secretary of Agriculture, to organize the speaker series. The event is free and open to the public. Doors open at 3 p.m. and a question-and-answer period will follow the speakers’ presentations. UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to host start of speaker seriesThe first panel discussion in the series will feature:
  • Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, who has been nominated to serve as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation
  • Bill Couser, an Iowa farmer who tills more than 5,000 acres, raises beef cattle, has been an early advocate of the ethanol industry in Iowa and the nation, and is a leader in adopting conservation practices that mitigate nutrient loading to Iowa’s streams and waterways
The focus of the series will be farms, food, energy and the environment. The speakers will address include their background and story, the scope of Iowa agriculture, food versus fuel concepts with regards to ethanol, water quality issues in Iowa that connect similarly with the Chesapeake Bay, challenges to the profitability in agriculture and the importance of Land Grant Universities and colleges of agriculture. A reception featuring UDairy Creamery ice cream will follow. Co-sponsors include the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) and the University of Delaware Energy Institute (UDEI). The speaker series will return in the spring of 2018. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

Former coal miners or citizens whose lives have been shaped by the coal mining industry in southern West Virginia will soon learn how to establish and operate bee colonies thanks to help from the University of Delaware’s Debbie Delaney. Delaney, associate professor of entomology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, spent her summer in Summers County working as a consultant through Appalachian Headwaters which is a non-profit organization that formed the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective. Delaney said that the goal was to help get the socioeconomic growth program up and running for displaced miners in 14 counties in southern West Virginia. “We got about 500 nucleus colonies or nucs, which are small colonies of bees, and a queen and all summer we’ve been erecting bear fences and creating bee yards so we can grow the colonies over the season and get them through the winter,” said Delaney. Beginning next year, local partners will come on board and get hives which will be a way for them to generate income. UD’s Debbie Delaney helps West Virginia miners begin anewDelaney said that how much income will vary depending on what kind of forage is available during that time of year—and that since the initial installation began after foraging season, they have had to feed the bees a lot to get them up to weight to make it through winter. “Typically, I’d say in that area of West Virginia, if they do things right, they should be able to get close to 200 pounds [of honey] off of each hive,” said Delaney. The way the program operates, the local partners will get the colonies, pull their honey off and bring it to the experts at the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective to extract. “I’ve been helping them design a big honey processing building that will be able to process 100,000 pounds of honey and then we will bottle it, we’ll market it and we’ll sell it to a higher end community,” said Delaney. “We’re not just selling the honey but also a story which is really cool.” Kate Asquith, program director at Appalachian Headwaters, said that starting a beekeeping operation can be a risky and expensive endeavor and they wanted to help the first-time beekeepers get over those hurdles. “This is a way to make sure that they’re getting as much profit from their beekeeping as they can,” said Asquith. “Our hope is that we can help people get a lot more money for the work that they’re doing and Debbie is a really big part of all of it. She’s been a wonderful piece of helping us plan out the program.” Appalachian Beekeeping Collective is headquartered at an old camp that was once owned and operated by coal mining companies that saw thousands of kids of coal miners go through the camp from different mining states. “These people are so tied to this place. When I was there over the summer, at least twice a week somebody would drive by and say, ‘I went to camp here 50 years ago. This place means so much to me’ so it’s a really special spot,” said Delaney. “There’s so much rich history there.” Because the people are tied to the land and invested in the history of the area, Delaney said that it made sense to get them involved in beekeeping. “They’re native and they’ve been there for generations and they know every mountain, every hill has a name even though it might not be on a map. Because they’re so tied to the land, this operation had to be something that was sustainable and that was also very connected to the environment and beekeeping is definitely both of those things,” said Delaney. The area also has a rich history of beekeeping as Delaney said she would find antique beekeeping equipment at area flea markets. “Everybody’s grandfather had bees. It’s because it’s all hardwood forests there, which all produce nectar and pollen and so it’s a really good area for beekeeping, really high quality forage. I think both of those things make it ideal,” said Delaney. The plan is for those beekeepers to keep their own apiaries but get bees raised by the Appalachian Bee Keeping Collective. “We’re trying to raise a strain of Appalachian honey bee that is mite resistant and that’s a big piece of what Debbie is doing,” said Asquith. “She’s really skilled with natural beekeeping methods and has been a really big help for us.” Asquith said that the first class of beekeepers, who will be trained over fall and winter, will number around 35 but next year the program will ramp up to include 85 beekeepers. For the first-time beekeepers, Delaney said that the biggest challenge is going to be overcoming the fear of being stung. “They’re going to be working with an insect that stings and learning the social behavioral cues of a colony, to read them, to know when they need to apply smoke or how much protective clothing they should wear; just learning to feel comfortable around them so that they are safe and that the participants can work them safely,” said Delaney. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

University of Delaware Botanic Gardens presents Fall Wreath Workshop

Get in the autumn spirit by making a beautiful fall wreath at the  University of Delaware Botanic Gardens Tuesday, October 10 at 6:00 PM in 102 Fischer Greenhouse, behind Townsend Hall on UD’s south campus. Craft your own vine wreath—round, oval or freestyle—then decorate with preserved greens, fruits, seeds and flowers, and finish with a colorful ribbon or natural adornment of raffia or burlap. The workshop is $45 for UDBG Friends and $55 for nonmembers. Pre-payment required. Call (302) 831-2531 or email to register. Minimum of 12 and maximum of 20 participants. To enjoy exclusive member benefits, join the Friends online at or contact Melinda Zoehrer at 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’s Sherrier receives $5.9 million NSF grant to conduct research on beneficial plant-microbe interactions

The University of Delaware’s Janine Sherrier is a co-leader of a multi-institutional team that recently received a four-year, $5,972,497 grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct research on the functional genomics of beneficial legume microbe interactions. These funds were awarded to the team after their recent completion of a highly-successful research program supported by a previous $6,733,426 award from the National Science Foundation. Sherrier, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, professor of biological sciences and research team leader at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, is a co-principal Investigator on the project.  Other team leaders include lead scientist Michael Udvardi, Chief Scientific Officer at the Noble Research Institute; Maria Harrison, the William H. Crocker Professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University; Rebecca Dickstein, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of North Texas; and Catalina Pislariu, a new professor at Texas Woman’s University. UD’s Sherrier receives $5.9 million NSF grant to conduct research on beneficial plant-microbe interactionsSherrier said that in this study, the researchers are “focusing on genetic components of the plant which regulate interactions between a legume forage crop and beneficial bacterial and fungal soil microbes. Just as humans require microbes to help us absorb nutrients from our food and maintain a robust immune system, plants also perform best when they interact with beneficial microbes. These microbes can provide plants with protection against pathogens and pests, increase plant reliance during stressful environmental conditions, and aide the absorption of essential nutrients from soil,” said Sherrier. In recent decades, plant breeders have made advances in the production of crop plants with important traits such as increased yield or enhanced disease protection, but Sherrier said, “The practical application of beneficial microbes has not been well studied and this research area offers the promise of the development of new tools to increase crop yields and to lower economic and environmental costs associated with crop production.” The research project focused on a legume crop because of its current use as a forage crop and its similarity to other important legume crops such as alfalfa, soybean, lima beans, and peanut. Legumes are also known to interact with a beneficial microbe which reduces the requirement to augment fields with nitrogen fertilizers, one area of Sherrier’s research expertise. In this unique interaction, when the bacteria and plant associate successfully, the bacteria are able to convert gaseous nitrogen from the Earth’s atmosphere into a form that is bioavailable for the plant. “Nitrogen is often the most limiting macronutrient in crop production, and the industrial production of nitrogen fertilizer requires high pressures and high temperatures, conditions which consume large levels of fossil fuels. As demands for fossil fuels continue to increase, the cost of industrially-produced nitrogen fertilizer is passed on to crop producers and food consumers. If growers have an option to use the microbially-supplied nitrogen to support successful crop growth, they could save money and help reduce the carbon footprint of food production,” said Sherrier. This beneficial interaction to acquire nitrogen is especially relevant to crop production on the coastal soils of Delaware, the rest of the Eastern shore of the U.S., and in California. Agricultural fields in coastal soils like those found in Delaware contain a high percentage of sand, relatively low levels organic content and are susceptible to droughts and floods. Unfortunately, these conditions are not optimal for the long-term survival of beneficial microbes in the soil, and these regional soils do not contain enough of the beneficial bacteria to help crops reach their full yield potentials. “Growers are facing increasing pressures to increase crop yields, while reducing impacts of crop production on the environment. This research is important because it will provide additional tools to growers to support healthy crop growth. Individuals may not choose to use microbes in every application, but growers will have a greater selection of resources to respond to the challenging conditions they encounter during each growing season,” said Sherrier. Therefore, in addition to the laboratory research in this project, Sherrier is working with UD’s Cooperative Extension specialists to demonstrate how growers can add beneficial microbes to the soil at the time of planting. In addition, the group researchers are enthusiastic about the training they will provide for students, post-docs and the general public about the importance of microbes and soil health for crop production.“Since our team has been entrusted with federal funds to support our research, we are committed to sharing the results of the research to benefit the public,” said Sherrier. Importantly, Debra Coffey, an educational researcher with the Center for Research in Education and Social Policy, will lead assessments of the program’s entire outreach and training efforts to measure the impact of their work and help the team continue to improve the impact of their diverse outreach program. At UD, specifically, Sherrier’s team will collaborate with UD’s 4-H program to lead an educational 4-H camp called Marvelous Microbes camp which teams microbiology and encourages students from diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in sciences. The group will conduct training sessions for adults at farmer’s markets and farm stands, and they also developed programming for students of all ages in Alabama, Texas, and New York. Postdoctoral researchers, graduate and undergraduate students participating in the program from all of the research institutions will take part in a rigorous training program. The senior team leaders will also provide training for members of the global scientific research community during annual workshops to demonstrate how the U.S.-generated resources can be used to benefit additional scientific research programs. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Evan Krape This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

The University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) rely on the work of student interns year-round, and especially throughout the summer, to keep the garden’s plant collections looking pristine. Now, thanks to a generous endowment established by the Parvis family in honor of David A., Martha T., and Robert A. Parvis, the UDBG will be guaranteed to have a student intern working every summer. Martha T. Parvis worked as a secretary for the Longwood Graduate Program for many years and the endowment is the first of its kind for the UDBG, and Robert Lyons, interim chair for the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said that it is uncommon for a garden to receive such an endowment. “It is a holy grail for gardens to get an endowment for student programs and we’ve been very fortunate through their generosity to make it happen,” said Lyons. The UD Botanic Gardens receives David A., Martha T., and Robert A. Parvis Fund EndowmentJohn Frett, professor of landscape horticulture in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of the UDBG, echoed these sentiments saying that from the UDBG’s standpoint, the endowment is truly unique and will impact students for years to come. “Endowments for this type of work are extraordinarily difficult to come by and it’s great to have that security, to know there will always be at least that one student that comes in and has that experience,” said Frett. “The impact of this endowment on the garden and on the student population is huge and it’s through their generosity that this is going to be possible.” The UDBG had five student interns working in the gardens over the summer. Through the program, the students worked with UDBG staff members to learn garden maintenance skills and gain experience in public horticulture while earning an hourly wage. The students work outside performing a wide variety of maintenance tasks, such as mowing, weed control, planting, and hardscape installation. Additionally, they develop specialized skills such as curatorial work, detailed pruning, propagation, and plant identification. Interns also assist with the annual benefit plant sales, which may include plant propagation and maintenance, labeling, set-up and plant staging and sales. Other potential activities include educational programming, marketing, web site administration, plant curation, and special event planning. Students work individually and in groups to accomplish goals set forth for the summer. They learn by example the importance of teamwork and collaboration required to manage UDBG’s collections. Students familiar with horticulture can use the internships to expand their horizons, discover new aspects in the diverse industry, and help build their resumes. Financial support for student interns is provided by Patrons of the Spring Plant Sale and other generous benefactors. This endowment will now help UDBG direct their budgeted resources to other programmatic areas that support students and their research. “It gets the UDBG a person to work there in the summer in that capacity,” Lyons said, “but it also relieves the budget of the garden and allows funds to be directed to support additional programs, so that makes it even more significant.” Frett added that the endowment “increases the depth in the internship program.” The first intern from the David A., Martha T., and Robert A. Parvis Fund will start in the summer of 2018. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Lindsay Yeager This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

NAMA Club at UD sets students on the path to career success

Since 1993, the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) team at the University of Delaware has been preparing students for careers after college by giving them real world opportunities and immersing them in the experience of creating and pitching a food product to marketing executives. The team is sponsored by the NAMA Marketing Club, which was established by Ulrich Toensmeyer, professor of Food Marketing and Management in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics. The team went to their first NAMA competition in April 1994 and 2017 marked the team’s 24th competition. The team spends a portion of the year brainstorming and coming up with food products to present to a panel of industry professionals at the NAMA competition which is held every year in various cities across the United States. To develop the products, the team looks at market dynamics, market characteristics and demographics and tries to understand what the industry is looking for in a product. Once the product is developed, the team goes through all the marketing channels, looking at design, packaging, how the product should be priced and what kind of customers they should target. The product is then presented at the national competition and the judges decide if they would want to go forward with the product or not. Two notable alums from UD that participated in the NAMA team during their time at the University include Eric Ziegenfuss and Jacqueline Cascio. They both said that they also enjoyed their interactions with Toensmeyer, or “Dr. T.” Eric Ziegenfuss Ziegenfuss, who spent four years on the NAMA team, said that getting ready for the competition is a very real world experience because “you have to understand your product completely. The panel of judges [at the national competition] would ask us questions about the product so it was like what a boss would do if you were going to present a new idea to a company.” NAMA Club at UD sets students on the path to career successZiegenfuss works in the sales department for The Oppenheimer Group in Newark, a company that imports produce from 26 countries around the world and sells it to nationwide retailers such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, and Costco and local retailers such as Acme and Shop Rite. “I sell all 10 of our produce categories and I manage our tropical department which includes mangoes and pineapples,” said Ziegenfuss. “I work with growers from around the world gathering info about the timing and size of the crop, setting market prices based on supply and demand, and then I work with our sales team to get this product to retail stores.  Every produce item is different and no season is ever the same. It is very fast and dynamic” At UD, Ziegenfuss studied food agribusiness marketing and management and knew that he wanted to do something food and produce related once he graduated. He said that his favorite part of the job is “the speed of the business. It’s almost like we’re stock brokers in a way because every day we wake up, we look at the weather, and we look at all the different market factors such as supply, demand, and exchange rates as we try to bring the best value to our customers while also keeping our growers happy.” Ziegenfuss said that being a part of the NAMA team was a great experience and that he loved his time at UD. “I love the University of Delaware and I feel very fortunate that I got to be a part of the NAMA team for 4 years and work with Dr. T.  Being a part of NAMA was probably one of my most valued experiences because of the real-world environment that the team created. Dr. T encouraged us to think outside the box but his teaching style and guidance helped us prepare for the real world and was unlike any classroom setting I experienced at UD. The most rewarding part was creating a product from scratch and then knowing every detail about what it would take to launch the product in real life. It was a great talking point on many job interviews and it was a perfect stepping stone to a career after I graduated,” said Ziegenfuss. Jacqueline Cascio Cascio graduated in 2001 with a degree in Food and Agribusiness Management. Now a trade marketing senior manager at Perdue, Cascio said that she works closely with the sales team and vets opportunities through logistics, operations, and marketing. “We let the sales team focus on selling and then we work through all their opportunities whether it’s new items and their distribution, promotion, all that kind of stuff and I have responsibility for our organic chicken. That’s my little piece of the business,” said Cascio. NAMA Club at UD sets students on the path to career successCascio, who grew up in Connecticut and had a dad and grandfather that worked in the chicken business, worked as an intern twice with Perdue in food service and retail during her senior year at UD. Right before she graduated, she was offered a full-time job in Salisbury, Maryland working in customer service. “That’s kind of the starting point of having someone right out of college is to work inside in customer service so I spent two years there and then went on the outside and spent most of my career in outside sales,” said Cascio. As for her experience with the NAMA team, which she joined her sophomore year, Cascio said that it provided her with “real world experience. It prepares students for their career and life post UD. From learning how to work as a team, writing a business plan, presenting in a public atmosphere to selling yourself and your product to a group of individuals. My experience on the marketing team was invaluable and helped prepare me for what I do today.” Cascio also said that Toensmeyer was a great professor and continues to be a great mentor. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that takes such an interest in his students’ life and their success and I just find that absolutely remarkable being out of school for as long as I have, I still have that close connection to UD and that’s because of Dr. T,” said Cascio. “I still talk to him on a regular basis as relates to UD and my career and it’s a very special relationship that he forms with his students because he wants them all to succeed.” Article by Adam Thomas

UD’s Jaisi Receives NSF EPSCoR Research Fellowship

Deb Jaisi, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware, has received a research fellowship through a new National Science Foundation (NSF) initiative that focuses on developing the next generation of U.S. researchers. The award from NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) allows awardees to make extended collaborative visits to laboratories and scientific centers, establish partnerships with researchers with complementary expertise, learn new techniques, have access to sophisticated equipment and shift their research focus in new directions. The two-year, $261,000 award will enable Jaisi and his graduate student to spend six months each year working with scientists at the California Institute of Technology to use a suite of sophisticated instrumentation to determine the specific forms and concentrations of phosphorus in soil and water. Delaware is one of 24 states, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam that are eligible to compete for EPSCoR funding. Unlike other types of NSF EPSCoR grants, which focus on supporting research centers and partnerships among institutions, the Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) Track-4 fellowships focus on giving early-career researchers the foundation for collaborations that span their entire careers. NSF announced the 30 RII Track-4 grant recipients on Wednesday, Sept. 20. New NSF EPSCoR funding program helps early-career faculty develop expertise, collaborations“These awards provide early-career researchers with tremendous opportunities and result in EPSCoR institutions gaining faculty members and investigators with cutting-edge research experience, who can help build the vibrant science and engineering laboratories and programs of the future,” said NSF acting EPSCoR head Uma Venkateswaran. The Delaware EPSCoR program helped recruit Jaisi to UD in 2012, providing start-up funding for his laboratory. “Deb is one of the really outstanding hires we’ve made through the Delaware EPSCoR program,” said Don Sparks, the S. Hallock du Pont Chair of Soil and Environmental Chemistry and project director for Delaware’s current statewide EPSCoR project. “He’s set up a world-class laboratory and developed innovative techniques for tracing the movement of phosphorus through the environment, establishing quite a reputation for himself in a relatively short period of time.”

Phosphorus and the environment

In January this year Jaisi received an NSF CAREER Award for outstanding early-career scientists that will address the environmental fate of phytate, the most common yet elusive form of organic phosphorus. Phosphorus, the focus of Jaisi’s research, is a key nutrient for all living organisms but also typically scarce in natural environments. As a component of fertilizers, phosphorus may promote crop growth, but excess phosphorus may build up in soil and be washed into waterways where it stimulates overgrowth of algae and degrades water quality. “The problem of phosphorus pollution has been very persistent in waterways such as the Chesapeake Bay, despite all of our efforts so far to limit the sources and clean it up,” Jaisi said. “My research team is devoted to gaining a deeper understanding of phosphorus sources and biogeochemical processes to make more progress in improving water quality in the Chesapeake and elsewhere.” The movement of phosphorus through soil, water and sediment is not straightforward, however, and Jaisi has dedicated his research to understanding the various sources and forms phosphorus may take and their interactions with living and nonliving components of the environment. He has developed new techniques for tracing the sources, transport and transformation of phosphorus using phosphate oxygen isotopes. (Phosphate is a molecule made up of one atom of phosphorus and four atoms of oxygen.) Isotopes — forms of the same chemical element with different atomic masses — occur in different proportions depending on their source. Phosphate derived from synthetic or manure-based fertilizers, for example, will carry different oxygen isotopic signatures than phosphate derived from decaying autumn leaves that have fallen into a stream. Determining the source, timing, and relative quantities of various phosphorus inputs into waterways, particularly regarding whether they pose immediate risks to water quality, will potentially have a major impact on watershed management decisions. Jaisi says that working with the expert colleagues and sophisticated tools available at Caltech will enable him to advance his research to a new level. His host at Caltech will be John Eiler, a leading expert on the isotope geochemistry of light elements. The fellowship offered the perfect opportunity to work together for an extended period of time. Jaisi is looking forward to using the advanced analytical tools at Caltech, especially the nano secondary ion mass spectrometer (nanoSIMS) and laser ablation isotope mass spectrometer (LA-IRMS), one of only a handful of such facilities in the U.S., to develop new methods of analyzing stable isotopes of phosphate in complex soil matrices. Developing methods and expertise on this equipment will be a key step toward future funding proposals to bring SIMS and LA-IRMS capability to Delaware. “This fellowship has really been an exciting development and will support my dream of developing advanced and innovative analytical methods in my research,” he said. “In fact, methodological limitations are essentially the roadblocks of phosphorus research. This high-risk, high-return type of research aims to develop two independent isotope systematics that together will significantly improve the resolution of sources and processes involving phosphorus in the environment, and thus may provoke the need for reinterpreting published literature.” Article by Beth Chajes Photo by Evan Krape This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Landscape Architecture program takes students on tour of Delaware

Professors from the University of Delaware’s Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA) program took six of the students newer to the major on a two-day tour of Delaware, Friday, August 25 and Saturday, August 26, looking at different landscapes throughout the first state. The program was funded by UD’s Sustainable Coastal Communities (SCC) Initiative headed by Ed Lewandowski, the acting director for Delaware Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Service. Joining the students on the trip were Sue Barton, professor and extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC), Jules Bruck, associate professor and director of landscape architecture, Anna Wik, assistant professor in PLSC and a registered landscape architect, and Tara Trammell, the John Bartram Assistant Professor of Urban Forestry. The BLA students exploring Cape Henlopen State ParkThe professors had Margaret Heffernan, a senior landscape architecture major and an art minor, and Olivia Kirkpatrick, a senior majoring in landscape architecture with minors in horticulture and art, on board for the program as well to provide leadership for the newer students. The program started out in Newark then moved south with the students visiting Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, the UD Virden Center and then Cape Henlopen where they took a transect across the dunes to see how to measure and look at the topography of the dunes. “We rented bikes so we could bike into Cape Henlopen park and that gave us a different appreciation for the landscape than just driving would have,” said Barton. The students also went to Sea Colony and studied one of Barton’s projects that involved a collaboration with the Center for Inland Bays and the Delaware Department of Transportation. “About five years ago, the ditches were widened and we added plants to slow water down, to give water a chance to be taken up by plants or sink into the soil, versus just run right off into the inland bays carrying all the nutrients and pollutants with it,” said Barton. Moving north, the group took a pontoon boat out into Trap Pond’s cypress swamp and Bruck informed them about her project in Laurel, Delaware. The two-day journey ended in New Castle where Trammell led an exercise looking at urban trees. “Students did sketching and participated in exercises and it was a jam packed two days. Some of the sophomores who went didn’t know other people in the program and they definitely knew each other well by the end,” said Barton. “In the future, we plan to run this for students between their freshman and sophomore years and it will be a great experience for them.” Barton added that having some of the more experienced landscape architecture students on the trip was a beneficial component as well. “The newer students got to know their upper classman, some of the leaders of the program. It was a great combination of comradery and environmental learning and we really hope to be able to do it again,” said Barton. Article by Adam Thomas Photo courtesy of Olivia Kirkpatrick

UD Cooperative Extension teams with University of Maryland Extension to assess disease resistance in small grains

With over 105,000 acres of small grain crops planted in Delaware in 2016, at a value of $24 million, it is vital to keep the industry up to date on the latest developments in disease resistance. One disease of particular interest is Fusarium head blight (FHB), considered the most damaging pathogen of small grains worldwide that reduces yields of wheat and barley and also contaminates grain with the carcinogenic mycotoxin known as deoxynivelenol (DON). To help area growers, the University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension Field Crop Pathology team has joined with a group from the University of Maryland to look at varieties of small grains with moderate resistance to FHB and DON. Using a misted nursery, a nursery with plants that get mist irrigated every night by a sprinkler system, located at the University of Maryland’s Beltsville facility, the group assessed 57 wheat varieties for FHB and DON in 2017, collecting data and sharing that data on-line, as handouts at meetings and as mailers to growers in Delaware and Maryland.  UD Cooperative Extension teams with University of Maryland Extension to assess disease resistance in small grainsFrom UD’s prospective, the study was led by Nathan Kleczewski, extension field crops plant pathologist, who said that mist irrigating the different varieties every night allows the disease to develop more consistently, enabling the researchers to provide more consistent and reliable measures of FHB and DON resistance. “You might have two varieties,” said Kleczewski.  “Variety one might flower on Monday and variety two might flower on Friday. Now, if you get heavy rains on Monday and it is dry for the next several days or weeks, you may come back later and think, ‘Variety two is resistant to FHB.’ In reality, the environment was not conducive for disease, that’s why symptoms were not present on variety two.” The researchers are evaluating commercial varieties and some varieties that haven’t been released yet to see which ones have the best resistance to head blight and DON. “What we’re able to do is provide the growers with a nice, unbiased evaluation of the different varieties for head blight,” said Kleczewski, who noted that different companies sometimes use different standards when they rate their varieties for diseases. “We compare everything across the board and we line up the varieties where they are relative to one another, not just within the company,” said Kleczewski. The idea of the misted nursery research is to try and promote the utilization of newer varieties of wheat that have more resistance to FHB with the end result being that growers in the region will suffer fewer losses to head blight and DON. “In the end, grain prices might go up because there will be less mycotoxin contamination, maybe we can minimize the amount of pesticides that are going on the plants and improve the profitability of the growers, the millers and everybody in the whole chain,” said Kleczewski. Head Blight Kleczewski said that FHB is a fungal disease that grows mostly on corn residue. Around Delaware and in the Chesapeake Bay area, there is a lot of no-till agriculture, which means that crops are planted onto residue and not tilled or buried material. Wheat is usually planted after corn resulting in left over corn residue on fields which can be used as a food source for FHB. The pathogen overwinters on corn and in the spring, when the wheat starts to flower, spores are produced on the corn and can infect the heads of wheat during wet rainy periods. “When the pathogen infects the head, it can cause yield loss because it chokes off the water and nutrient movement to the grain so that the grains aren’t as big, they don’t fill up with sugars as nicely, and they lose quality,” said Kleczewski. The fungus can also produce a toxin, such as DON, and that toxin can deceive growers into thinking that their crop is good because it doesn’t appear to have head blight but it could be susceptible to accumulation of the toxins. “We screen not just for visual symptoms but also for the mycotoxin. If our grain buyers here in Delaware buy a lot of wheat with a lot of mycotoxin, they can’t sell it to the people in Pennsylvania where they need to sell it so what they end up doing is bringing in grain from areas like Brazil or Canada and that costs them money,” said Kleczewski. “When they have to do that, it also lowers the price of wheat for our growers and so we want to try and minimize the amount of mycotoxin in our grain to really help everybody out in the long run.” UD worked with Jason Wight, assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, and the Variety Trials team at the University of Maryland on the project. The Maryland team plants, maintains and harvests the plots. Kleczewski’s group inoculates the site with corn infested with the FHB pathogen, rates the varieties, and evaluates FHB and DON data. For information on the researcher’s findings, visit Kleczewski’s website and Scabsmart. The data can also be found on the small grain variety trials website run out of the University of Maryland. Article by Adam Thomas

Landscape Architecture program hosts Breaking Urban Landscape Architecture symposium

The University of Delaware’s Bachelor of Science in Landscape Architecture (BSLA) program will host a Landscape Architecture Symposium titled “Breaking Urban” from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday, September 29 at the Delaware Center for Horticulture with a tour and reception to follow at the DuPont Environmental Education Center. The program was organized by students in the Landscape Architecture Symposium course who attended the Longwood Graduate Program symposium and the Pennsylvania-Delaware chapter meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects to get ideas about how they wanted to organize a symposium of their own. UD’s Landscape Architecture program hosts Breaking Urban Landscape Architecture symposiumSue Barton, professor and extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said that attending the two different symposiums “gave students, especially attending the Longwood symposium first and relatively early in the process, an idea of what we were striving for.” Olivia Kirkpatrick, a senior majoring in landscape architecture with minors in horticulture and art, said that once the students settled on the Breaking Urban theme, focused on community engagement in urban design and landscape architecture, it was easier to pull together ideas for speakers. This year’s speakers include:
  • Jeff Flynn, director of development for the City of Wilmington, who will give a talk entitled “Wilmington as a Sustainable City”
  • Bryan Hanes, founding principal of Studio Bryan Hanes who is also a is a Registered Landscape Architect in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York and Indiana and a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED Accredited) professional whose talk is titled “Who is this guy?”
  • Karen Washington, a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens who has lived in New York City all her life, and has spent decades promoting urban farming as a way for all New Yorkers to gain access to fresh, locally grown food, will give a talk entitled “An Empty Chair at the Table of Food Justice”
  • Mark Lakeman, a national leader in the development of sustainable public places who has directed, facilitated, or inspired designs for more than three hundred new community-generated public places in Portland, Oregon alone over the last ten years, will give a talk on “Demos and Design = The Best Destiny Ever.”
There will also be a panel discussion moderated by Anna Wik, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and a registered landscape architect, focused on how and why some landscape architecture projects are successful and others are not. Kirkpatrick said that she is most looking forward to how the students respond to the symposium. “We’ve been planning it out and we kind of have an idea of what we want to hear from the speakers or what we’re anticipating but we don’t know exactly how it’s going to happen and exactly how the discussions are going to go so I’m interested to see how our anticipations compare to the actual day itself,” said Kirkpatrick. Barton added that she is proud of the students for organizing the symposium which is never an easy feat. The event is open to the public. Tickets cost $125 for individuals and $50 for students. There are also scholarship opportunities for students that attend. The event is sponsored by the Pennsylvania-Delaware chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, Delaware section; UD Career Services Faculty/Staff Career Innovation Grant; Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association; Chanticleer Garden and Larry Weaner Landscape Associates. For more information, contact Barton at ( or (302) 831-1375 or visit the symposium website. Article by Adam Thomas

Networking, and tailored experiences a focus of CANR strategic internships

Spencer Murray collecting Palmer Amaranth seed samples with Barbara Scott, associate researcher with Weed Science Program
Four students from the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources began their fall semester enriched from their strategic summer internship experiences. Mark Isaacs, Director of the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center, coordinated the internships. Isaacs hopes the offerings for internships expand and more students learn about the opportunities available. The Carvel Center is the college’s southern agriculture experimental station and serves as the staging ground for unique summer work experiences. The 347-acre campus, which includes Sussex Cooperative Extension and Lasher Laboratory, provides an ideal venue for CANR students studying across academic disciplines. This summer, three of the four internships were sponsored, Isaacs said, a trend he hopes will continue and grow. The Sussex County Council provided funding for two positions. In addition, Helena Chemical Company, which is headquartered in Columbia South Carolina, partnered with UD — an important bridge to new opportunities, Isaacs noted. The internships are all unique, customized to a workplace experience that suits each student’s goals, or help to identify them. “We try to tailor the experience,” Isaacs said. “We meet with the student, identify their interest and career path and plan accordingly. If they are uncertain, we set up a rotating schedule to assure broader exposure. All are crafted to build the student’s professional network, showcase career opportunities, and build their professional development. You can’t get that in a classroom.” Matching the student with the opportunity is a college-wide effort, including ongoing conversations with faculty and staff who assess and recruit the students and help coordinate the summer’s agenda. In some cases, students take the initiative; in others students are recommended by faculty and staff to pursue the internship. While academic performance is a consideration, it is not the only characteristic that makes students a good fit.  A passion for learning, good communications skills, attention to detail, and a demonstrated work ethic are sought after, Isaacs said. “We place our students in situations where they have to interact with people on a professional level in fields of study they are interested in,” Isaacs said. “They get to see firsthand the challenges and opportunities these professions deal with on a daily basis.” Often, the internship experiences hones a student’s academic trajectory. “They discover a new aspect they hadn’t considered before,” Isaacs said. “And in some cases, what they do not want to do becomes clarified.” Statistically, two jobs are available for every graduate with an agriculture related degree. “It is one of the most tremendously opportunistic career paths a student can have,” Isaacs said. “The chance to build contacts with professionals in these allied industries is a win-win for everyone.” Intern Profiles
Parker O’Day Working with iMovie and Final Cut Pro, O’Day’s spent the half the summer creating video content for Cooperative Extension.
Parker O’Day, a Food and Agribusiness Marketing and Management sophomore, spent the summer as a communication intern at the Carvel Center. O’Day learned about the opportunity from Tracy Wootten, a Sussex County Extension agent working out of Carvel. Although O’Day had a retail job lined up for the summer, he jumped at the chance to work with agriculture marketing. O’Day received hands-on training in videography and editing, and produced and edited several videos for Extension’s farm succession planning, Delaware Master Gardeners, Extension videos at the Delaware State Fair, and UD’s Weed Science program. Another comprehensive project took O’Day away from the computer and outside to visually map the Carvel Center’s research plots for a future online virtual tour. O’Day canvased and photographed these plots with a 360 degree camera. Later, he recorded interviews with Extension faculty and specialists about their specific research, overlaying the panoramas with YouTube videos, still photographs, and links to other resources.  When completed, visitors to the web-based tour will have a better understanding of the important research undertaken at the Carvel campus. “The one thing I was never exposed to and always wondered how it worked was video editing,” O’Day said. “For ag business – on the marketing side of things, this skill will be useful to future employers.” In addition, Isaacs arranged for O’Day and another intern, Spencer Murray, to meet with Kenny Bounds, Deputy Secretary at the Delaware Department of Agriculture, who provided the interns with an overview of his department and a visit with Mid Atlantic Farm Credit.
Laura Donahue, at the bench with Lasher Lab’s Dan Bautista and Billie Jean Wright
For Laura Donahue, professional networking is a critical component in accomplishing her goal to be a large animal veterinarian. Well before high school, the pre-vet senior mapped out a plan and strategized her experiential portfolio toward that singular goal. Donahue sought diverse experiences, including traveling to Denmark to work with swine, and last summer working with sheep in Iceland. As she approached her senior year at UD, Donahue recognized the need to obtain laboratory and research experience. She reached out to Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, who encouraged Donahue to contact Mark Isaacs about openings at the Lasher Laboratory.  While lab work was not a long-term goal, Donahue wanted to gain experience in a lab. As a summer resident in Delmarva, she realized that the chance to work with poultry in the heart of the industry made sense to round out her experiences. Monday through Thursdays mornings, Donahue did “bench work” working in Lasher’s bacterial, serology and PCR labs with lab manager Kim Allen and her staff. In the afternoons, she assisted necropsy cases with Dan Bautista, Lasher’s veterinarian. On Fridays, Donahue typically worked alongside large animal veterinarians. She took full advantage working alongside the visiting veterinarians to learn their stories and make valuable contacts.  Donahue places a high value on networking, acknowledging that each person she meets opens a door to a new opportunity. “I got to hear other people’s perspectives, they talk about their careers and what they’ve done – and their advice and input were invaluable,” Donahue said. Donahue’s internship helped shape her goals to specialize as a food animal veterinarian and address issues of global food insecurity.
Colby Rash, poses with Mark Isaacs who encouraged Rash to apply for the competitive internship with Helena Chemical
Colby Rash, a senior majoring in Agriculture and Natural Resources, was recommended by Isaacs to apply for a competitive internship with Helena Chemical Company, which focuses on crop protection and management. Rash was one of 15 students whittled down from a pool of more than 1,500 applicants. Rash spent the first week at Helena’s headquarters in Columbia, South Carolina  receiving an overview of Helena’s portfolio and career opportunities from upper management, before continuing in their Mifflinville, Pa. location for the remainder of the summer. Rash worked closely with growers and industry representatives, troubleshooting crop production issues – everything from variety evaluation, pest management, and nutrient and fertility issues. His internship often required travel and networking with his fellow interns in Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York. Isaacs stated, “Wes Page, who came to UD campus to recruit our students, did an excellent job coordinating Colby’s summer experience.” Upon graduation, Rash has been invited to return for a second internship. Spencer Murray, a senior majoring in Agriculture and Natural Resources and minoring in Animal Science was approached by Mark Isaacs to consider a rotating internship. “It was a perfect opportunity to get my ducks in a row and figure out what I would like to focus on,” said Murray. Murray and Isaacs mapped out a schedule that included a broad spectrum of agriculture’s allied industries. Murray interacted with agriculture chemical companies such as Monsanto, Helena, Growmark FS, and Crop Protection Services (CPS) and observed that relationship building between the company and the farmer is essential. Murray worked directly with Carvel’s research and extension staff learning about the poultry industry alongside Georgie Cartanza, state poultry extension agent, and observed precision irrigation technology with James Adkins, associate scientist. Murray also spent time with Barbara Scott and Carvel’s Weed Science team, and experienced the connection between extension and research. Murray’s advice to students, “No matter what your mind is set on, if you try something new, you may figure out something different you would like to do.” Isaacs agrees that a good internship serves many purposes, most importantly, students get snapshots into the many careers possible.  “Working toward a career means strategic relationship building. It means learning to be fluid and open with career possibilities and establishing contacts with those that can advise and steer your career options. It means learning how to market yourself by exhibiting skill sets employers look for in their future employees,” Isaacs said. “Our faculty and staff – we are in constant dialogue about our students and we want them to be successful. My colleagues recognize that a key component is work-based experience,” Isaacs said. “That’s the great thing about our college. We care about the student and placing the student in the right situation to be successful.” Article by Michele Walfred Photos by Michele Walfred and Spencer Murray

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

Casey Johnson, Dr. Ryan Arsenault, Bridget Aylward skating on Lake Louise, in Alberta, Canada during a break at the Keystone Symposium "Pattern Recognition Signaling: From Innate Immunity to Inflammatory Disease" in Banff, Canada in March.
Casey Johnson, Ryan Arsenault, and Bridget Aylward skating on Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada during a break at the Keystone Symposium “Pattern Recognition Signaling: From Innate Immunity to Inflammatory Disease” in Banff, Canada in March.
Researchers at the University of Delaware are looking into what causes that gut feeling in livestock animals such as cows and chickens. Ryan Arsenault, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), arrived at UD in 2015 and since that time, he has worked to set up a lab looking specifically at the gut health of production livestock animals. Members of Arsenault’s lab—specifically Bridget Aylward, a doctoral level student in CANR, and Casey Johnson, a Master’s level student in CANR—have presented their findings at international conferences such as the European Symposium on Poultry Nutrition in Spain as well as Keystone conferences in Banff, Canada and Dublin, Ireland. Nexus of Everything Arsenault said that gut health is a big topic in agriculture as many researchers are looking for alternatives to antibiotics which are almost all focused on the gut. “We can’t use antibiotics like we used to in food animals. Antibiotics have been used in animal agriculture to keep animals disease free and grow larger. In Europe it’s totally gone, has been for years and years, and it’s getting pulled more and more from the American market so things like probiotics, pre-biotics, post-biotics, feed additives and feed enzymes, everyone’s looking at those as this silver bullet to solve the antibiotic alternative issue,” said Arsenault. Many of his research projects are funded by industry and look at mode of action and mechanisms for antibiotic alternatives such as yeast cell wall extracts, feed enzymes and feed modifiers. The trend towards no-antibiotics basically boils down to two main points: the concerns regarding antibiotic resistance that bacteria develop and the negative perception consumers have with regards to the use of antibiotics in animals. Arsenault said that the gut is important to understand because it’s the center of animal production. “You need an efficient gut because that’s where all the nutrients are absorbed. You’re not going to have a growing animal without a functioning healthy gut and it’s also the site of entry for a lot of disease causing pathogens,” said Arsenault. “It’s linked to pretty much every other system. For example, the second most innervated organ in the body besides the brain is the gut.” There is also a huge immune component as more than 50 percent of the immune system is found in the gut. “The gut is sort of this nexus of everything,” said Arsenault. “It’s basically your gut microbiota—the resident commensal bacteria in your gut—are a big part of being healthy. If you have the ‘good’ bacteria in your gut, you’re more likely to be resistant to infections, your gut’s functioning more efficiently, you can maintain a healthier weight. Diseases like Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative colitis are, people think, predominantly microbiota related.” The acquisition of a microbiome as a young chick, baby calf or a baby human has consequences for an entire life span because of how it helps develop an appropriate immune system and an appropriate immune response. For instance, a lot of allergies and auto immune diseases are linked to how one acquires a microbiome in infancy. Arsenault said that his lab is interested in looking into how chickens or cows acquire a healthy or unhealthy microbiome and what signals this is providing to the host animal, which feeds into the probiotics question of what the animals should be fed in order to give them a healthy microbiota so their immune system is optimum and they’re absorbing the optimum nutrients. Focusing on the gut is a trend in human health as well, as probiotics have taken off in popularity and the work being done in Arsenault’s lab ties into the One Health concept, the idea that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment. The most common type of zoonotic disease—diseases that can be passed from animals to humans—are classified as zoonotic gastrointestinal diseases, this includes Salmonella, E.coli and Campylobacter. International presentations For their presentations, Johnson and Aylward both focused on issues related to the gut. Johnson looked at feed additives as alternatives to antibiotics and how they respond with necrotic enteritis, or inflammatory dead gut disease, in chickens which is a huge problem facing the Delmarva poultry industry due to antibiotic feed restrictions. “We were looking at their products which is crude yeast cell wall extracts which trigger immune receptors and we were looking at the purified forms of these yeasts cell wall extracts and at the differences and the efficacies of these as antibiotic alternatives. The more purified products seemed to have a better response,” said Johnson. Because yeast is a fungus and not a bacteria, they initiate and bind to different receptors in the gut and do different things to the immune system than bacteria. Arsenault explained that there’s been a lot of work in poultry on yeast feed additives as immune modulators because “They’re not really stimulating the immune system, they’re not dampening the immune system, they’re kind of priming or modulating it.” Aylward’s poster presentation in Banff looked at pattern recognition receptors, which are receptors in the immune system that recognize a specific universal microbe motif such as a set of nucleic acids in a form only found in bacteria, with regards to chicken macrophage cell lines. A macrophage is a large cell found in stationary form in the tissues or as a mobile white blood cell, especially at sites of infection. The macrophages were treated with butyrate—considered a post-biotic—and forskolin—a plant extract that people use as a weight loss supplement. Aylward worked on the kinome array analysis of how signaling in the cells changed after administration of these different feed additives. Her presentation in Dublin looked at eight random dairy cows that were free of pathogens to establish the baseline normal immune cell signaling in the gut of those cows. Departmental focus In addition to his research on gut health, Arsenault is also on the organizing board of the annual Symposium on Gut Health in Production of Food Animals, an international conference on all aspects of gut health for all food animal species. He has been invited to speak on the topic of gut health in Brazil, Spain, Canada and the U.S. and co-edited an e-book on gut health research. The Department of Animal and Food Sciences also has Amy Biddle, assistant professor of animal and food sciences, who co-teaches a gut microbiome microbial and host perspectives class with Arsenault. Biddle’s work includes the Equine Gut Microbiome project in which her lab is tackling many of the fundamental questions behind the role of bacteria in the horse gut in health and disease. Robert Dyer, associate professor in ANFS, and Tanya Gressley, associate professor and dairy nutritionist in ANFS, are also looking carefully at the gut health of animals. Article by Adam Thomas

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

UD to feature live Blue Hens at home football games this fallUniversity of Delaware football fans who have never seen an actual Blue Hen in person will get their chance this fall as the University will have Blue Hens on display during home games as part of their pre-game tailgate festivities. The birds will be on site in the Anchor Buick GM Blue Hen Fan Zone two hours before the games begin. The football season kicks off on Thursday, Aug. 31 at 7 p.m. when UD hosts Delaware State University. Having the Blue Hens at the games is the result of an interdisciplinary collaboration between UD Athletics and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). Chrissi Rawak, director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation Services, and CANR Dean Mark Rieger initially talked about the possibility of having a live mascot in December 2016, and the two teams have been working together ever since to bring the concept to fruition. Athletics and CANR have worked together on everything from game day logistics to coop design to blue hen color selection. A trailer, designed by Dan Hougentogler, research associate in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS), has been constructed to house the Hens for the pre-game activities and is equipped with a mock up football field and goal posts, as well as fans to keep the birds cool. The Blue Hen flock at UD features descendants of birds that were originally donated by S. Hallock du Pont in the 1960s for teaching and research, as well as three newer birds that were donated in 2016 by Wesley Towers, a 1964 UD graduate who majored in animal and poultry health during his time at UD and went on to serve as the Delaware state veterinarian for over 37 years. He is also a former member of the University’s Board of Trustees. Bob Alphin, senior instructor in ANFS and manager of the Allen Laboratory, explained that this is a great opportunity to provide educational outreach to the Delaware community on the importance of the poultry industry to the state, as well as educate them on the history and biology of the Blue Hens. Alphin stressed that the safety and health of the birds is of the upmost importance. “The trailer has a nice design with good air flow, with fans, we’ll provide water and feed, along with plenty of space for the birds. I don’t expect that we’ll have any issues but we are prepared just in case,” said Alphin.

Blue Hen Interns

Three student interns—Anna Desmond, Melanie Lopez and Meaghan Young—from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources have been working with the birds since June and will be on site at the games to help educate the public and to keep an eye on the birds. Desmond, a junior majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences, said that she is thinking about a career in the poultry industry after she graduates and has enjoyed working with the birds this summer and learning new things about them such as how they ‘pant’ when they get hot. “I didn’t realize that chickens pant. That’s something that I never would have even thought that they did. They don’t have sweat glands, like dogs don’t have sweat glands, and so they pant and chickens do the same thing,” said Desmond. Young, a senior majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences and agriculture and natural resources who is also doing research on campus in the Allen laboratory, said that she is looking forward to people’s reactions to the Blue Hens. “I’m excited to see how they react when they see an actual Blue Hen because a lot of people just think of UD when they think of a Blue Hen but it is an actual bird,” said Young. Lopez, a senior pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major who is also minoring in wildlife conservation, said that the primary goal of the internship is animal care and taking care of the birds. “We go in there every day and make sure they have feed and water, that the coup isn’t wet and the fans are working, that there are no signs of distress and then we collect the eggs and we count them and put them in the egg room cooler,” said Lopez. Lopez also said that the interns work on their communication skills with the general public to relay information in a way that children can understand. “We have a couple of trainings with children that are coming up and that’s kind of our test run to see how the Blue Hens are going to react, how we’re going to handle a whole bunch of children and that should be a good indicator of what it’s going to be like in the fall,” said Lopez.

Naming Contest

Those who attend the first two home games will have the opportunity to suggest names for the Blue Hens, as the interns on hand will collect naming submissions before the game. While there will most likely be five birds total at the games, there have been two male birds that have been chosen to represent the Blue Hens as they are the biggest birds in the flock and look the most like iconic Blue Hens. Lopez said that it is easy to distinguish the two Blue Hens from one another and that they both have their own unique personalities. “One is more energetic and vocal and then the other is quieter but has his bursts where he moves quick all around,” said Lopez. Young added that “One is a little bit more curious. As soon as you walk in, he’ll kind of go up and check you out and then the other one just chills in the back a little bit.” For more history on the Blue Hens at the University of Delaware, check out a previous UDaily story. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD study looks to clean up subsurface phosphorus risk assessment

UD study looks to clean up subsurface phosphorus risk assessment
Soil cores collected from Queen Anne’s County, Maryland.
When it comes to advancing nutrient management planning for croplands across the United States, it is important to evaluate phosphorus indices to ensure accurate phosphorus loss risk assessment. Until recently, however, most of these phosphorus index assessments have focused on the risks of phosphorus losses in surface runoff while inadequately taking into account the critical role of subsurface phosphorus losses. This is particularly important in areas such as the Atlantic Coastal Plain, where subsurface flow is the predominant pathway of phosphorus transport from artificially drained agroecosystems — cropland that uses artificial drainage to lower water tables. A new paper published in the Journal of Environmental Quality by researchers from the University of Delaware and other contributing institutions explores methods to evaluate the subsurface phosphorus risk routines of five phosphorus indices from Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina using available water quality and soil datasets. The research was funded in part by a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant. Amy Shober, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and a Cooperative Extension specialist, is the lead author on the paper, which represents some of the work done by Kathryn Turner, who worked in Shober’s lab and graduated from UD in 2016. Co-authors include Scott Andres, hydrogeologist and senior scientist with the Delaware Geological Survey, Anthony Buda, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Thomas Sims, a retired UD faculty member and former deputy dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nicole Fiorellino, Chesapeake College, and Joshua McGrath, University of Kentucky.

Atlantic Coastal Plain

Shober said that some cropland on the Atlantic Coastal Plain must be artificially drained to lower the water table in order to avoid having water within the root zone of plants or standing water in their fields, which would disrupt farmers’ ability to use equipment and plant successful crops. Shober said that today’s farmers are dealing with what is known as “legacy phosphorus,” phosphorus that is left over from past manure applications and that continues to contribute to water quality issues. Using phosphorus indices, farmers and land managers can identify areas in the landscape where phosphorus sources overlap with the ways in which water moves phosphorus through the soils. There have been a lot of studies evaluating the risk of phosphorus transport, such as erosion and surface runoff, because these losses are easily seen. Fewer studies have been conducted on the contributions of subsurface phosphorus to drainage waters, which are harder to track because they occur below ground and there are fewer tools to study these losses. “You can collect runoff at the end of the field and know what came over that land surface,” said Shober. “It’s harder to identify where water moving through the ditch network originated. Water draining from the fields occurs underground, and the discharges from multiple fields mix as water moves through the ditch network. Not to mention that rainfall that is directly deposited to the ditch — and even overland flow — can also contribute to ditch flow.”

Soil data

To better study the subsurface phosphorus sources and transport, the researchers started looking at soil data to determine if the previously existing phosphorus index models were able to accurately predict subsurface phosphorus sources and transport. They found that the pre-existing hydrologic models to evaluate subsurface phosphorus were inadequate when it came to evaluating flat, artificially drained areas like those found in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain. For flat landscapes, the hydrologic models didn’t work because they need slope and are based on topography. Because the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain doesn’t have a lot of surface runoff but instead has a lot of subsurface runoff, the models were calculating for problems for which the model was not designed. “There aren’t a lot of studies, especially in our region where it’s flat and there is a lot of ditch drainage, so we can’t calibrate and verify our phosphorus indices for subsurface phosphorus losses,” said Shober. “We started looking to see if we could use soil data to determine if we were going in the right direction. If we were really seeing high phosphorus risk in places where this index is identifying high subsurface losses.” Shober said that the researchers were able to conduct this study using previously collected soils, which can be stored for long periods of time and still contain measurable phosphorus.

Subsurface phosphorus index

Using a library of soil cores that the authors had collected at different depths from all over the Delmarva Peninsula and using data collected by Sims and Andres, the researchers calculated the risk for subsurface phosphorus loss using five phosphorus indices. They looked at the phosphorus index scores without taking into account any manure application, only concerning themselves with contributions of the legacy phosphorus. “For our index, we eliminated the things that we weren’t interested in looking at so we ultimately got a score that we consider was just for this subsurface risk,” said Shober. “We wanted to say, ‘OK, what is the inherent risk of subsurface losses of phosphorus that was in the soil?’” Once they got those numbers, they looked at the water-extractable phosphorus at the depth of the seasonal high water table and correlated the data to see the relationship. To find the water-extractable phosphorus, the researchers took a small amount soil and a little bit of de-ionized water and shook them for an hour and measured how much phosphorus came out of the soil. “If the phosphorus index subsurface score was low and the water-extractable phosphorus in the soil at the depth of the water table was low, we would expect a low risk of subsurface phosphorus losses. So, ultimately, we wanted to see scores increasing either linearly or exponentially as soil water extractable phosphorus increased – the higher the risk score, the higher the water-extractable phosphorus level should be,” said Shober. The calculation using water extractable phosphorus concentrations at depths corresponding with the seasonal high water table could serve as a realistic proxy for subsurface losses in ditch drainage and as a valuable metric that offers interim insight into the directionality of subsurface phosphorus risk scores when water quality data are inaccessible. This will all help to improve monitoring and modeling of subsurface phosphorus losses and enhance the rigor of phosphorus index appraisals, Shober said, adding, “We’re hoping that this is something that people can do to move forward with our understanding of subsurface phosphorus loss. In the end, we ended up making some small tweaks to both the Maryland phosphorus management tool (PMT) and the North Carolina phosphorus loss assessment tool (PLAT) that made them score more appropriately against our soils dataset.” Article by Adam Thomas Photos courtesy of Amy Shober This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

UD garden offers local, student-picked produce to the community on FridaysMembers of the University of Delaware community searching for local, sustainable, student-grown and handpicked produce need look no further than UD Fresh to You, a garden managed using organic practices and located on UD’s South Campus in Newark. Located off Route 896 near the University’s Townsend Hall — next to the former Girl Scouts building and across from the historic farmhouse, UD Fresh to You is open every Friday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. with an assortment of locally grown seasonal produce. UD Fresh to You supports various food security projects within the local community and sells produce to local restaurants, such as House of William and Merry, the student-run Vita Nova restaurant on campus, Grain on Main, Platinum Dining Group (with restaurants such as Taverna and Red Fire Grill steakhouse), Goat Kitchen and Bar, Ulysses gastropub and Newark Natural Foods. Student interns work at the garden every summer and play a vital role in every aspect of managing and maintaining the garden. Produce available this week from UD Fresh to You includes: • Slicers, Saladette and cherry tomatoes (limited quantities of cherry tomatoes) • Poblano peppers • Tomatillos • Jalapeño peppers • Cayenne peppers • Hungarian hot wax peppers • Okra • Sweet peppers • Sweet corn • Green string beans • Cantaloupe • Black Beauty and Ping Tung eggplant For more information on UD Fresh to You, check out their Facebook page. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

UD’s Hiltpold looks at adding silicon to soil to strengthen plant defensesTo help plants better fend off insect pests, researchers are considering arming them with stones. The University of Delaware’s Ivan Hiltpold and researchers from the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at Western Sydney University in Australia are examining the addition of silicon to the soil in which plants are grown to help strengthen plants against potential predators. The research was published recently in the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry and was funded by Sugar Research Australia. Adam Frew, currently a postdoctoral research fellow at the Charles Sturt University in Australia, is the lead author on the paper. Hiltpold, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the basis of the project was to assess the impact of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on a plant’s nutritional quality and also on root pests, using sugar cane and root-feeding insects, primarily cane grubs—the voracious larvae of the cane beetle. “This research demonstrated a cascading effect,” said Hiltpold. “We have silicon and other plant nutrients in the soil, we have the fungi that is interacting with the plant and metabolites, and all that plant chemistry has an impact on insect development.” Silicon is the world’s second most abundant element after oxygen in the Earth’s crust, but because it is in a stone or mineral form, it is not readily available for use by plants. By amending the soil with silica, a form of silicon that plants can easily take up, the researchers helped the plants build up tiny particles called phytoliths, or “plant stones,” to defend against herbivorous insects and possibly rodents. “The plant builds up these sorts of stones in its tissues, which will reduce the digestibility of the plant material because digesting stones is not very easy,” said Hiltpold. “Also, these stones wear the mouth parts of insects and possibly rodents. If your teeth are not really cutting any more, then you cannot eat as much as you could. All of that added together will reduce the impact of herbivory on the plant.” In experiments with two sugarcane varieties grown in a greenhouse, root-feeding insects, primarily the cane grub, fed on the plants. The immune function of the insects was assessed by measuring their immune response to entomopathogenic nematodes—small organisms that kill insects in the soil—while insect growth and root consumption were assessed in a feeding trial. The researchers found that high levels of silicon concentrations decreased insect growth and root consumption, the latter by 71 percent. Because the silicon doesn’t affect grazing livestock, Hiltpold said that it also will not affect humans when, for example, a person consumes boiled carrots or sweet corn. Hiltpold said they chose the cane grub for their study because it is a major pest in Australia. “Sugar cane is a big industry in Australia, and these larvae are really causing a lot of damage to it. These grubs can be pretty big—their diameter can be as big as my thumb,” Hiltpold said. “As soil pests, they are really hard to control because they are hard to reach with insecticides and they are hard to monitor. We don’t really know where they are before we see the damage on the plant, and then usually it’s too late. Having options to control them is always good.” The option of using silicon to naturally strengthen the plant’s defenses against the cane grub would be both environmentally friendly and economically attractive to growers, as they would not have to spray as much to protect their crops. “The idea of amending crops with silicon in general is that, OK, we have this element that is naturally present. The only thing is that it’s not bio-available so it cannot be taken up by the plant as is, but if we add a little bit of bioavailable silicon to the field, then it boosts the plant’s biomass,” said Hiltpold. “The plant productivity is increased and also the plant defenses are increased because the silicon accumulates in the tissue above and below ground and helps the plants to cope with insect as well as mammal herbivory.” Hiltpold said this research could be applicable to other types of plants besides sugarcane. He also said that in addition to the plants’ interaction with the silicon, the fungi had a surprising impact on the insects. “We don’t exactly know if it’s via the plant or directly from the exposure to the fungi, but the insect immune system was triggered when the plants were treated with the fungi,” said Hiltpold. “That could be useful in an integrated management view because triggering an immune system if there is no invader, no pathogen exposure, might have a cost on the growth or performance of the insect, so that will eventually have a beneficial impact on the plant because the insect is doing less well and doing less damage. I think that was an interesting finding that was never demonstrated before.” Article by Adam Thomas Illustration by Jeff Chase This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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

K. Eric Wommack’s group gets $6 million to study virusesThe University of Delaware’s K. Eric Wommack, deputy dean in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, will lead a research team from four universities that has received a $6 million grant to probe how viruses impact microbes critical to our lives, from producing oxygen to growing food. Also, UD’s Kelvin Lee, Gore Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is a co-investigator on a $6.1 million research project, led by Clemson University, aimed at lowering drug manufacturing costs. The two four-year projects were announced by the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) on Wednesday, Aug. 2. They are among eight projects across the United State, totaling $41.7 million, that aim to build U.S. research capacity in understanding the relationship in organisms between their genes and their physical characteristics. Uncovering this genotype-to-phenotype relationship holds potential for improved crop yields, better prediction of human disease risk and new drug therapies. “Over the past several decades, scientists and engineers have made massive strides in decoding, amassing and storing genomic data,” said Denise Barnes, NSF EPSCoR head. “But understanding how genomics influence phenotype remains one of the more profound challenges in science. These awards lay the groundwork for closing some of the biggest gaps in biological knowledge and developing interdisciplinary teams needed to address the challenges.” “The University of Delaware’s deep involvement in two EPSCoR grants underscores the world-class leadership and bold ideas of our faculty, as well as the powerful role of interdisciplinary collaboration for society’s behalf,” said Charlie Riordan, vice president of research, scholarship and innovation. “We congratulate Eric and Kelvin and look forward to the new technologies their teams will advance.”

A nano-lab for observing viruses and cells

In water and soil to the human gut, you’ll find single-celled microbes — and viruses right alongside them. A virus will infect a microbe, hijack its machinery and begin replicating, eventually killing the host. But how these processes work within complex microbial communities is still largely a mystery. The multi-university collaboration that UD’s Wommack is leading will develop new technology to enable scientists to examine — in a droplet of water smaller than mist — how a single virus and a single microbial cell interact. “Imagine doing a classic microbiology experiment with test tubes and culture plates. Our research would take all of those test tubes and cultures and reduce them down to a tiny droplet 100 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair,” says Wommack, who is an expert in environmental microbiology. Operating under the principle that oil and water don’t mix, the interdisciplinary team will create devices the size of a microscope slide, equipped with tiny incubation chambers filled with oil, to isolate individual droplets of water injected with a syringe. Molds for these microfluidic devices will be fabricated in UD’s state-of-the-art Nanofabrication Facility for collaborators David Dunigan and Jim Van Etten at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Grieg Steward and Kyle Edwards at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, and Marcia Marston and Koty Sharp at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. “A big aim of our project is to democratize the microfluidics technology we develop so that the average lab can run these experiments,” Jason Gleghorn, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at UD, says. “It’s about making new tools and resources available to the broader scientific community.” The research team also will create the Viral Informatics Resource for Genome Organization (VIRGO). “We have troves of genomic data on viruses,” Wommack says. “What’s limiting our work is that we don’t know the connections between the genes and what the viruses do biologically. How quickly do viruses infect a host? How long do they take to reproduce? What happens to the infected cell? Once we have that information in VIRGO, we can look at a viral community and make inferences about how unknown viral populations will behave.”

A focus on environmental microbes

Collaborators in Nebraska, Hawaii and Rhode Island will focus on viruses that infect phytoplankton — microscopic organisms that live in the salty ocean to freshwater lakes and conduct photosynthesis. Phytoplankton serve as big links in food chains and produce more than half the oxygen on Earth. They, along with other microbes, process as much as 70 percent of the carbon going through ecosystems, according to Wommack. Meanwhile, researchers at UD will focus on viruses that attack microbes important to the nitrogen cycle. They have a collection of symbiotic bacteria, called Bradyrhizobia, that provide nitrogen to soybean — fueling plant growth without extra fertilizers. Soybean feeds some 2 billion people globally, and more of it will be needed to feed a world population expected to hit 9 billion by 2050. “We can’t simply fertilize our way to greater agricultural productivity,” Wommack says. “But if we can find a way to improve the plant’s innate nutrition system through research we’re doing now, we may be able to get a plant to do what it already does, a lot better.” Wommack also has teamed up with Rob Ferrell, science teacher in the Appoquinimink School District, to translate the research into life science and earth science curriculum activities for middle school students. Other UD members of the project include Barbra Ferrell, research associate; Jeffry Fuhrmann, professor of plant and soil sciences; Jason Gleghorn, assistant professor of biomedical engineering; Shawn Polson, associate professor of computer and information sciences; and Jaysheel Bhavsar, bioinformatics programmer.

Clemson collaboration to boost biopharmaceutical manufacturing

The EPSCoR project at Clemson University seeks better ways to engineer Chinese hamster ovary cells, which are used to manufacture more than half of biopharmaceuticals. Joining co-investigator Kelvin Lee on the project will be Cathy Wu, Edward G. Jefferson Chair of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology at UD. Products from these cells are used in drugs to treat Crohn’s disease, severe anemia, breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, and represent more than $70 billion in sales each year, according to a Clemson news release. Lee, who directs the National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL), said the EPSCoR project would help address challenges in making these medicines more widely available. NIIMBL, announced in December 2016 at UD and launched in March 2017, was established with a $70 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. Department of Commerce and with support from more than 150 collaborators. Article by Tracey Bryant Photos by Kathy Atkinson and Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD students spend summer focusing on needs of the First State

UD students spend summer focusing on needs of the First StateUniversity of Delaware students are spread throughout the state this summer as Extension Scholars, Service Learning Scholars and Summer Undergraduate Public Policy Fellows, working on projects that help communities and give the students experiential learning opportunities in their future career fields. Dan Rich, director of the Community Engagement Initiative, said this is the first time the programs shared an orientation. Organized by Cooperative Extension, members had the opportunity to share the similar roles they play in applying research to needs in the community. “Through these summer programs, UD students serve as engaged scholars. They contribute to improving the quality of life in communities throughout Delaware while they gain knowledge through experiential learning,” said Rich. The 10-week programs wrap up in August when the students will present their work at the University’s Undergraduate Research and Service Symposium.

Extension Scholars

The Extension Scholars program, now in its 13th year, is run through UD’s Cooperative Extension Program and offers students a unique, hands-on 10-week summer experiential learning environment under the guidance of extension agents or specialists. During this summer internship, students follow Cooperative Extension’s service learning model, implemented through one of extension’s four program areas: 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences, lawn and garden, and agriculture and natural resources. Michelle Rodgers, associate dean in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of UD Cooperative Extension, said the program provides an opportunity for students to interview and have real job experience while being mentored by someone on the job. “Mentors often become references for employment. Numerous Extension Scholars have commented that this experience has been beneficial to obtaining employment as it provides them meaningful work experiences that assists them in sharing experiences in employment interviews,” said Rodgers. “There are numerous scholars who have come back and shared that their experience was key to their employment.” The eight Extension Scholars are working on a wide array of projects ranging from integrated pest management and  4-H to climate change and environmental quality work.

Service Learning Scholars

The 19 Service Learning Scholars have spent their 10-week summer program working with community partners on projects and also doing academic reading and reflection with a faculty mentor. Susan Serra, associate director of service learning for UD’s Community Engagement Initiative, said that the projects vary from students working in landscape architecture through community revitalization projects in Laurel and Leipsic, to students working at the Bear-Glasgow YMCA with adults with intellectual disabilities, to others working at Winterthur’s Terrific Tuesdays program, where they bring experiences found at the museum to the Salvation Army summer camp in Wilmington. “The goal is to provide community partners with a resource they wouldn’t have had otherwise,” said Serra. “With the YMCA, for example, the students are working with a UD faculty member who studies the physical health of people with intellectual disabilities — the students are partnering with the YMCA to meet the needs of that community. We are also looking to, if possible, work on sustainable projects so that it might be something that different students would come back to in the future.” Serra said that the experience helps students understand what it takes to make things happen out in communities. “They begin to understand not just the challenges communities face but also their assets. Being partners means recognizing that the community brings as much to the table as you do,” said Serra.

Summer Undergraduate Public Policy Fellows

Run through the School of Public Policy and Administration in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Summer Undergraduate Public Policy Fellows is composed of 16 students working with three centers: the Institute for Public Administration, the Center for Community Research and Service, and the Disaster Research Center. The program includes three field visits so that while the students work on a project in one of the three centers, they get exposed to work in all three of the centers and across different sectors. “They’re getting to see what their peers are working on, which can spark some ideas of what they might want to explore in the future,” said Lisa Moreland, program manager and IPA policy scientist. “It brings them together, gives them a sense of camaraderie, and may spark opportunities for collaboration. It’s beneficial to the students, but also mutually beneficial to the center staff and organizations with which they are working.” Joseph Trainor, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration and program director for disaster science and management, said the project undertaken by his students combines sociological, engineering and economics approaches to explore the question of what makes a hurricane evacuation a success or a failure. “This question is explored from two perspectives: that of the transportation agencies charged with managing an evacuation, and that of the individual households who participate in the evacuation,” said Trainor. Using focus groups, a survey and simulations, the project will attempt to quantify these criteria into measurable variables, which can be used to form models to evaluate how much of a success or failure an evacuation is, according to these two perspectives. “These models could be used to evaluate the impact of different evacuation strategies, in order to enable authorities to conduct evacuations that are more successful, both for the agencies that manage them and the households that participate in them,” said Trainor. Other topics students are exploring include economics development in Delaware, best practices to engage minority communities in cycling and urban bikeshare networks, and small business trends and conditions in Delaware. Signe Bell, director of nonprofit and community programs in the Center for Community Research and Service, said that getting students an opportunity to work in their field of study with faculty members and professionals allows them to explore and see what kinds of projects are actually happening in the field of public policy and organizational leadership. “They learn about these projects and then they learn about themselves in the process,” said Bell. “I tell students all the time that it is just as valuable to learn what you don’t like to do as it is to find out what you love. Because you don’t want to learn that you don’t like something once you have your first full-time job doing it. This is a good, low stakes opportunity for learning.” Moreland added that these experiences also give the students a leg up when it comes time to take the next step after graduation. “It puts them ahead of the game for students coming from other universities when they’re trying to compete for jobs,” said Moreland. “These experiences on their resumes reflect on their work ethic and speak volumes. The bottom line that Signe, Joe and I have for our students is getting them that experience and having them put their best foot forward when they go out into their careers — whether it’s further graduate study or employment.” Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware Cooperative Extension works to bring healthy food to urban areas

Delaware Cooperative Extension works to bring healthy food to urban areasWith the help of Delaware Cooperative Extension, urban farms and gardens are popping up all over the First State, providing a much-needed healthy food source and beautifying areas that otherwise wouldn’t have access to fresh vegetables or flowers. Many of these gardens rely on the expertise of Cooperative Extension agents and the services extension provides, such as soil testing, plant pest identification and disease diagnostics. One that has been particularly well served by extension is the Planting Hope Urban Farm located on North DuPont Highway in New Castle and is a partnership between the Delaware Department of Agriculture and Health and Social Services. Gail Hermenau, the urban farm manager for Planting Hope, said the farm supports a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that recently expanded to include families and children from the Terry Psychiatric Center, a campus market as well as a community garden space where they work with clients from the Delaware Psychiatric Center and the Division for the Visually Impaired. The farm is in part funded by a three-year specialty crop block grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Hermenau said the children from the psychiatric center do different types of activities and plantings at the farm. “They have two raised beds they use to plant a variety of vegetables, and they use that space to learn about plant life cycle and all the sustainable farming practices that happen on the farm. Then we harvest that material, and I usually cook something up for them and have a tasting,” said Hermenau. Cooperative Extension is partnering with the farm to provide nutritional education in the class room for the students from December to April. Over the summer, they meet with Hermenau on the farm where she delivers a CSA share, one per household, to the Terry Psychiatric Center that’s distributed among resident children and children who are part of the day program.

Extending knowledge

Hermenau said she was always fascinated by gardening, but her interest and knowledge base took off when in 2004 she trained to become a volunteer educator in Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener program, and later trained to become Master Composter and Master Food Educators. Hermenau said getting involved with Cooperative Extension was the “best thing I ever did. Cooperative Extension is a wonderful organization. It’s made a tremendous difference in my life personally and professionally.” Having been trained as a Master Gardener with a specialty in composting and vegetable gardening, Hermenau installed the original four raised beds, borders and compost site at the demonstration garden located in the back of the New Castle County Cooperative Extension building located on Wyoming Road. Her role as a Master Gardener now includes working in the areas of community gardening and urban agriculture. It was in this role that she attended the Joint Council of Extension Professionals conference with Michelle Rodgers, associate dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of UD Cooperative Extension, Maria Pippidis, New Castle County director and extension educator for family and consumer sciences, Nancy Bell, a Master Gardener, and Karen Sommers, a Master Food Educator. The last day of the conference included a trip to Capitol Hill. At that time, Hermenau and the other Delaware extension professionals were able to talk about the low cost and free services extension provides to the Delaware community and invite Delaware Sen. Tom Carper to visit the urban farms and gardens in Wilmington.

Senatorial tour

Carper toured urban gardens and farms in Wilmington on May 30, including the E.D. Robinson 12th and Brandywine Farm and the South Bridge Community Garden, which Hermenau said was started by Randi Novakoff and a variety of partners including extension which was instrumental in helping get off the ground. “One of the first things that the Southbridge community did was contact extension, and that’s what a lot of people do. They contact extension staff, in this case Carrie Murphy, [extension agent and the lawn and garden program leader], and explain ‘this is what I need to do, how do I go about doing this and can you help me?’ Carrie then provides assistance and makes connections to the appropriate experts including master gardeners and master food educators,” said Hermenau. Carper was also able to tour Planting Hope where he had the opportunity to speak with community garden members, learn about how the garden helps a variety of people including those in drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs and clients from the division of the visually impaired, and how the garden members use various extension services throughout the year in a variety of ways. While each urban community garden and farm is unique, Hermenau said the goal is always the same: for community gardens to be led by members of the community. “Extension is always there as a resource, but we found that community ownership of the garden is really necessary to make it successful,” said Hermenau. “They need to make it their own. They come to us for resources, but we don’t go to them and tell them ‘this is what you should be doing and this is how you should be doing it.’ We tell them, ‘We’re here and these are the resources we have, how can we help you?’ That’s our approach.” Ultimately, these urban farms and community gardens serve many purposes for the communities in which they are installed, not the least of which is providing fresh vegetables to communities in need. “Urban gardening and farming is really important. When you think about the different communities with limited access to fresh vegetables, many of the members of that community also have limited access to transportation so any of these resources they can take advantage of make a big difference,” said Hermenau. “The areas that they work in, they were abandoned lots and so it improves and beautifies their neighborhood. It makes a difference in changing the neighborhood, and it makes the community come alive.” Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Evan Krape This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension at the Delaware State Fair

UD Cooperative Extension at the Delaware State FairThe University of Delaware Cooperative Extension once again has a strong footprint at the Delaware State Fair, which runs July 20 through Saturday, July 29, at the fairgrounds in Harrington. “Each year I grow more impressed with our staff, Extension scholars and volunteers who represent Extension’s role and greet the public at the fair,” said Michelle Rodgers, director of Cooperative Extension and associate dean at the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “The fair venue is a great opportunity to converse with the public, answer questions, and highlight how Extension extends knowledge and changes lives across our state.” Delaware Cooperative Extension, jointly represented by Delaware’s two land grant institutions, the University of Delaware and Delaware State University, return to their  newly designed exhibit in the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) Commodities Building. Four large screen monitors highlight video of Extension’s four areas of outreach education: 4-H, agriculture, lawn & garden, and family and consumer sciences. Also featured is a 360-degree virtual reality display of UD’s irrigation research at Warrington Farm and DSU’s high tunnel research from its Smyrna Outreach & Research Center.  Extension experts will also be on hand to answer questions. Two gift baskets courtesy of UD and DSU will be given away on the fair’s final day, Saturday, July 29 at 4 p.m. Directly across from the Extension exhibit, DDA’s demonstration kitchen will serve as a stage for a variety of interesting and delicious “how to” presentations, many taught by UD Extension staff members.

A ‘Super Bowl’ event for 4-H

For 4-H youth exhibitors, the Delaware State Fair is the 4-H version of the Super Bowl — the grand finale showcasing their project work throughout the year, which begins every September. As they progress through the year, 4-H youth select the best of their work to display at the fair, with exhibits that span several project areas including canning, entomology, beekeeping, clothing and textiles, horticulture, crops, food products, woodworking, computer graphics and photography, and others. Extension staff, Master Food Educators, Master Gardeners and 4-H alumni and leaders serve as exhibit judges. This year more than 10,000 exhibits were checked in. The Delaware State Fair is the capstone event for 4-H contest winners at the county level, who will vie for overall state honors in Harrington, with competitions in livestock, poultry, horticulture, vegetable, clothing and textiles, and photography. Other featured contests include tractor driving, photography, archery, Avian Bowl, Consumer Bowl, the 4-H Horse Show and a talent show. The awards celebration for these contests are scheduled for  Saturday, July 29, at 5 p.m. During the fair, temperatures in Delaware typically reach well into the 90s, with heat indexes into the 100s. Nevertheless, 4-H’ers keep their cool as added responsibility toward their livestock increases. The heat index is of particular concern to the pigs, said Susan Garey, animal science extension agent. “The 4-H’ers and their families are very diligent,” Garey said. “They are up at the barn quite a bit.” Pigs have a hard time cooling themselves, Garey said. 4-H’ers take their pigs to the wash rack to wet them down multiple times during the day. Wet bedding helps keep them cool. Fair visitors may notice colored water by the livestock pens. Electrolytes added to the water help animals cope with the heat, much like human athletes when performing in hot weather. With increased water intake and intentional damp bedding, 4-H families spend a great deal of time with shovels, brooms and rakes. “They go through a lot of shavings, that’s for sure,” said Garey. “But this is what they work for all year, what they plan for. It not just about the shows, it’s about their fair friends and the traditions and so they are enthusiastic no matter what the temperature.” Follow 4-H and Extension at the fair on social media via @UDExtension and @Delaware4H. Article by Adam Thomas and Michele Walfred Photo by Michele Walfred This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Go Baby Go Café offers catering to campus community

Members of the University of Delaware community looking for fresh breakfast or lunch deliveries now have a new alternative as the Go Baby Go Café has begun offering catering services in addition to the food served in the atrium of the STAR Health Sciences Complex on UD’s Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus. The catering menu is available to parties from 10-30 people on campus – as well as off campus locations for an additional $10 fee – and includes items such as a quick start continental breakfast, parfait bar or lox bar for breakfast and sandwich platters, salads and soups for lunch. Bagels and pastry packs, yogurt options, coffee and juices, as well as dessert options such as cookie trays or UDairy Creamery ice cream cups are also available. The Go Baby Go Café is a collaboration between the UDairy Creamery and the College of Health Sciences and started in November 2014. The concept began with Cole Galloway, a professor and researcher in the Department of Physical Therapy, who created Go Baby Go!, which uses re-purposed toy cars that allow children who have trouble walking and crawling to move and play. Galloway then adapted this concept into a harness system allowing adults with limited mobility as a result of brain injury to rehabilitate in a real-life work setting. Galloway approached the UDairy Creamery to help develop the café not only give patients real life work therapy but also to provide meals and snacks to the STAR Campus and surrounding areas. Jason Morris, manager of the Go Baby Go Café who graduated from UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2016 with a degree in food and agribusiness marketing and management, said that the menu has evolved a great deal since its inception in 2014. “We just updated the catering menu in March and we pretty much doubled it in size adding different types of sandwich platters and a lot to the breakfast menu,” said Morris. The regular menu at the café has evolved too, with additional equipment allowing for the inclusion of hot sandwiches. Morris said that his favorite part of being manager of the café is coming up with new products to offer. “I like experimenting. I’ve always liked cooking and now, I’m always trying to come up with new sandwiches and when I hear good feedback from the employees or the students that try them, it gets me really excited and I try to offer it more,” said Morris. For more information on the Go Baby Go Café and for those interested in catering, visit the websiteor email Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Peruvian embassy hosts exhibit featuring indigenous culture

Peruvian embassy hosts exhibit featuring indigenous cultureAn exhibition highlighting one of the last indigenous cultures of the Peruvian Amazon and featuring field research, photography, art conservation and curatorial work by University of Delaware faculty, students and alumni will open this week in Washington, D.C. The Ese’Eja People of the Amazon: Connected by a Thread will be on view at the Embassy of Peru until Sept. 15, and will then travel to numerous museums throughout the U.S. An opening reception and book signing will be held at the embassy on Thursday, July 13. A parallel exhibit created by the same team will be on display July 27-30 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, where it will be part of the Kaypi Perú (“This Is Peru”) festival celebrating the nation’s cultural heritage. More than 30,000 visitors usually attend the free, annual festival. Also connected to the exhibit, a new documentary book, Ancestral Lands of the Ese’Eja: The True People, has been published by the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research(ACEER). All proceeds from the sale of the book will go to ACEER’s Community Development Fund in support of Ese’Eja and other indigenous development projects and conservation education in the Peruvian Amazon. The team that created the exhibition was led by Jon Cox, assistant professor of art and design and a graduate of UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR); Vicki Cassman, associate professor of art conservation; Monica Dominguez Torres, associate professor of art history, all at UD; and Andrew Bale, lecturer in art and art history at Dickinson College. Bale, who earned his master of fine arts degree at UD in 2005, and Cox are photographers whose work is showcased in the exhibit and the book. Objects displayed in the exhibit include baskets, bark cloth, carved wooden bows, arrows with elaborate feather arrangements on their shafts, a necklace of wild-pig teeth and various items dyed with berries and other natural materials. The Ese’Eja, who now live in three villages in Peru, are an indigenous hunting, gathering and fishing people. Their numbers have plummeted in recent years, and their traditional culture is threatened by development, industry and restricted access to their ancestral lands. “One of the goals of having the exhibition and the book was for the Ese’Eja to have a voice in the policies that directly affect them,” Cox said. “My goal was to facilitate them telling their story with the hope that projects like this one will start a conversation.”

Exhibit inspired by 2014 expedition

The exhibit of artifacts and photographs, many previously on view in UD’s Old College Gallery, grew out of a 2014 “cultural mapping” project in Peru led by Cox and Rainforest Expeditions. In that project, UD faculty members, four undergraduate students and two alumni, including Bale, spent three weeks in Ese’Eja communities. The interdisciplinary group documented the everyday lives of the people through photos, video, oral histories and maps created from GPS coordinates and the recollections of older Ese’Eja who remember the good hunting and fishing locations and sacred places. The mapping project resulted in a video titled “The Ese’Eja: From a Cotton Thread in the Sky to Protectors of the Amazon.” The title refers to the traditional belief that the Ese’Eja traveled down to Earth on a cotton thread. The video, hosted on the National Geographic website, can be viewed via a link on the overall project website, “The Ancestral Lands of the Ese’Eja — The True People,” at The cultural mapping project was supported in part by National Geographic’s Genographic Legacy Fund, and in 2015 Cox was named a “National Geographic Explorer.” For the students who took part, the expedition was a unique learning experience that encompassed research in anthropology, ethnobotany and education, as well as hands-on photography, videography and mapping skills. For Brian Griffiths, who graduated in 2016 with degrees in environmental engineering and plant science, the project led him to a new passion and altered career plans. “That trip was really my first research experience in the field, which was huge for me because now that’s what I do,” said Griffiths, a doctoral student in environmental science and policy at George Mason University who continues a particular interest in Peru. “I’m studying environmental science in terms of people—their impact on the environment and how environmental change affects them. My focus is always on indigenous people.” Another student from the cultural mapping expedition, Chelsea Rozanski, is completing her Peace Corps service in Panama. A 2014 graduate in anthropology and women and gender studies, Rozanski said the experience ”profoundly influenced” her plans to study and teach cultural anthropology. “The opportunity of being a part of this interdisciplinary collaborative effort was the richest personal and educational experience during my time at UD,” she said in an email from Panama. “I grew as an aspiring anthropologist, world traveler and advocate for environmental and indigenous rights.”

Photographs hold deeper meaning

When Cox and Bale were deciding how to select and display photographs for the exhibition and book, they wanted to do more than show what the Ese’Eja people and communities look like. They came up with the idea of using photographic processes that would symbolize some of the challenges the Ese’Eja face from outside influences. Portraits of community members were created using mercury-developed gold-gilded daguerreotypes, a labor- and time-intensive technique that was first developed in 1839 to make the earliest photographic images. The use of mercury and gold was important, Cox said, because illegal mining of gold in the Peruvian Amazon releases some 38 tons of mercury a year, threatening the Ese’Eja’s health and ecosystem, as well as their way of life. In addition, because daguerreotypes have a kind of mirrored surface, the viewer sees his or her own reflection as well as the image of the person who was photographed. “You see living people in the image, but you also see yourself, because we’re all [as consumers] part of the problem,” Cox said. Other photographs show sacred sites and ceremonies in platinum-palladium prints, a process developed in 1873. The prints are made on Japanese Kozo paper, symbolizing the influence of Japanese refugees who settled on Ese’Eja ancestral lands after World War II.

Program support

Support for the project has come from the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research, Dickinson College, the Greater Philadelphia Latin American Studies Consortium, National Geographic’s Geographic Legacy Fund, Hahnemuhle, Notchcode Creative and Rainforest Expeditions in Peru. University of Delaware units supporting the work include the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Art and Design, a General University Research Grant, the Institute for Global Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences’ Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center, the Office of Undergraduate Research and Experiential Learning, and the School of Education. Article by Ann Manser Photos by Jon Cox and Andrew Bale This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD students, professors spruce up Leipsic Town Hall

UD students, professors spruce up Leipsic Town HallContinuing on ideas that began in her Ecological Planting Design class, University of Delaware faculty member Jules Bruck, along with Ed Lewandowski and four UD students, headed to Leipsic on a Saturday in June to plant 900 native and beneficial plants around the town hall. The project marked the first phase of the implementation of ideas gathered by the class and organized by Bruck, associate professor and director of landscape architecture in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Austin Virdin, a UD alumnus who graduated in 2017, and Olivia Kirkpatrick, a junior majoring in landscape horticulture and design. The class presented three of their ideas to the town and incorporated community feedback along the way. “This is the phase one implementation of the overall planting,” Bruck said, explaining that the team “basically completed the foundation planting for the front of the building.” The plants that were installed were predominantly native but there were some non-invasive ornamentals that are low maintenance to provide ground cover. “The majority of the landscape is ground cover,” Bruck said, noting that when the sod is stripped and the dirt exposed, the planting of small shrubs can open the site to massive weed infestation. “The quicker you can establish a solid ground cover, the better it will be in terms of maintenance. That’s probably one of our best low-maintenance strategies.” The Leipsic landscaping project grew out of the Working Waterfronts Initiative in the community for which Lewandowski, acting Marine Advisory Service director for Delaware Sea Grant and coordinator for the University’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative (SCCI), which is housed in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), was the principal investigator. SCCI launched the Working Waterfronts Initiative in 2012 to develop sustainability strategies for preserving and maintaining the state’s traditional maritime communities. When members of Leipsic’s museum committee approached Lewandowski about assisting with development of their maritime and agricultural museum, which will reside in the same facility as the town hall, he connected them with Bruck. He also provided project funding from SCCI to pay for the development of the landscaping plans as well as the plants and necessary supplies. The town is going to take ownership of the next phases, which include building a community plaza, fixing the flagpole and the town sign and installing benches. Bruck said that if there was going to be a third phase of the project, it would be to paint a mural on the back of the building – one of the student recommendations that came from her class – and then to install several trees in the back lot. The three Summer Service Learning Scholars who helped on the project included Rob Kuntz, Tali Gasko and Haley Stanko. Leipsic’s Deputy Mayor, Martha Wilkinson, and council member Debbie McKeever, also assisted with the landscaping installation. Elaine Elston, the MOT Charter High School principal, also helped with the project, along with one of her high school students. Elston was also joined by her husband, her son and daughter and one other community member. As far as what the actual planting looked like compared to the plan that the class had drawn up on paper, Bruck said that she has been doing this for a long time and is used to how the paper ideas come to life in the real world. “The translation of a plan from paper is easy for experienced landscape professionals,” she said. “It’s a skill set that develops over a long time so it takes a while for students to start to understand how circles on a piece of paper actually translate to a physical landscape including what it’s going to look like and how it’s going to feel. But they will get there in time. It’s a matter of designing a plan, installing it, and seeing how it looks in real space. Once you do that over and over you develop an ability to go back and forth between the two.” Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Emergency Poultry Disease Response workshop emphasizes biosecurity, rapid response

Emergency Poultry Disease Response workshop emphasizes biosecurity, rapid responseKeeping the international poultry community up to date and informed on the latest research and technological advances in dealing with avian diseases such as avian influenza, as well as learning from the international community about how they handle poultry in their corner of the world, is of the utmost importance to the University of Delaware. To help with that mission, UD welcomed 18 poultry professionals representing 18 countries as it hosted its ninth annual Emergency Poultry Disease Response (EPDR) certificate program June 12-16. The workshop was held on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus in Newark, aimed at teaching both local and international participants about preparedness planning, biosecurity and assessment, and rapid response techniques and technology with regard to avian disease outbreaks. The program was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) in conjunction with UD’s Division of Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS). It was led by Eric Benson, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences(ANFS); Robert Alphin, instructor in ANFS and manager of the University’s Allen Laboratory; Shaun Sutherell, assistant director of UD’s PCS; Pat Allen, program manager for PCS; and Dan Hougentogler, senior research associate in ANFS. U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware welcomed participants to the workshop, stressing the importance of using the program to learn from one another. “You’re going to see what we call the Delaware model, which pulls together all the different sectors that produce poultry – growers, integrators, University researchers, agricultural extension – and we hope that this is a good and instructive opportunity for you. We also have important things to learn from you,” said Coons. “Poultry is grown in different ways in different parts of the world,” he said. “There’s different technology and approaches that are appropriate in different settings, and my hope is that this week is an opportunity for you not just to get a great certificate, not just to meet people from other parts of the world, not just to learn from us, but for us to also learn from you. Because frankly, whether positive or negative, whether it’s the threat of avian influenza or it’s the very real promise that poultry brings to feeding a hungry world, there’s a lot of reasons for us to participate together.” Coons, who leads the Senate Chicken Caucus along with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, spoke about the importance of early detection of poultry diseases in feeding a hungry world. “When I meet with ministers of agriculture or trade or development, I emphasize that we are committed to global food safety and public health and that we want to invest collaboratively in building these systems with early warnings, with best-in-practice trainings and with mutual sharing of information. That’s why we do this. At the end of the day, the potential for poultry production globally is huge,” said Coons. Glenn Reyes, who participated in the program and works with the Bureau of Animal Industry in the Philippines, said that he works with poultry producers in his country doing surveillance and monitoring birds prior to those producers transporting their birds to other locations. “We test for avian influenza, Newcastle disease and salmonella. Once the flock is proven to be negative from those tests, that’s the time that they get to have the certificate and will be allowed then to travel. The certification itself is valid for six months only and then they have to get retested,” he said. The most beneficial aspect of the program, Reyes said, was learning the different methods to deal with disease outbreaks in poultry flocks, as well as the threats posed by live bird markets. “We have live bird markets in the Philippines and it’s interesting to know that it poses a big threat in the industry. I will probably be collaborating with the USDA on how to manage, especially when it comes to those live bird markets and when it comes to biosecurity and surveillance testing,” said Reyes. “Learning these things has been amazing, and I can apply this to my daily routine at work. I can disseminate this information to my colleagues and I believe this is very beneficial, timely and relevant.” Charmaine Wenya Chng, a participant from Singapore who works for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, said that her home is a huge importer when it comes to poultry. Because it is a small city-state and poultry is found in close proximity to residential areas, thus increasing the risk for potential human contact with poultry diseases, it is important to keep avian influenza out of Singapore. She said she found the discussions on how to deal with disease outbreaks as well as incident command structures (ICS) to be beneficial. “I think many countries in the world follow the ICS system, where you clearly separate your different roles and responsibilities and it’s very neatly organized so you don’t overly tax the bandwidth of people on top,” said Chng. “That’s very important and I’m hoping to implement something like that. It depends on your organization and the setup in your country, but that’s something I’m hoping to bring back.” As for her experience at UD and the EPDR program in general, Chng said, “I think the people are very friendly and very focused. The first day I came here, I was impressed by how scientifically driven the University is and how people are committed to science – really doing very logical risk based assessments of situations, trying to figure out how to improve especially in the wake of the 2014, 2015 outbreaks. I think that was one thing that struck me, and the speakers who were invited from UD to speak, they’re all very knowledgeable about the subject and it’s good that they’re willing to share their research and their experiences in the field.” Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Kathy Atkinson This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

National Agri-Marketing Association team unveils ‘Earth Based Superfood Spreads’ at national competition

National Agri-Marketing Association team unveils ‘Earth Based Superfood Spreads’ at national competitionStudents on the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) Marketing team at the University of Delaware presented their “Earth Based Superfood Spreads” idea at the 2017 NAMA Student Competition held recently in Dallas, Texas, with a total of 30 universities competing. The NAMA Marketing Team is sponsored by the NAMA Marketing Club, which was established by Ulrich Toensmeyer, professor of agricultural marketing in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, in the fall of 1993. The team went to their first competition in April 1994 and 2017 was the team’s 24th competition. Toensmeyer was unable to travel this year and he recruited Patrick Correale, a UD alumnus who graduated in 2016, to take the team to Dallas and also to participate to get the team ready for the competition. Correale, who majored in food and agribusiness marketing and management (FABM), participated on the team for three years and was team leader in 2015-16. This year’s team was led by Aubrey Aranowicz, who recently graduated from UD with a major in FABM and minors in resource economics and statistical data analytics and the three of them prepared the team for the competition. The team’s expenses have been fully funded by generous donors since the creation of the team and this year was no exception. Correale said that from the moment the team got back from last year’s competition, they began brainstorming product ideas for this year’s competition. “Usually by September, the idea starts to come to fruition and you start to build a plan around it and then the trip is in April every year so toward the second semester, you start working on the speeches and you start working on the actual presentation,” said Correale. The team developed an executive plan for their product and presented that plan to a team of professional judges at the Dallas competition, where they not only got to present their product but also to network with industry professionals. Aranowicz said that being able to participate in the NAMA competition was a huge bonus in her college experience. “Not many students have the opportunity to create and determine the logistics of a product, and pitch the idea to a panel of respected judges,” said Aranowicz. According to the executive plan, Earth Based is a fresh superfood spread that would be found in the refrigerated section of supermarkets, near the produce section. Earth Based would target consumers who enjoy hummus spreads, like those produced by Sabra, and other popular shelf spreads such as mayonnaise and pesto. Flavors would include: • Zesta, aimed to add flavors of lime zest, chili powder and cilantro; • Cocoa turmeric, a savory spread with spices that have a long history in improving a person’s health and well-being; • Beet, a slightly sweet yet earthly and crunchy flavor that is full of antioxidants and fiber; and • Herba, a hearty and peppery spread that provides Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease. “Each of our unique, flavorful spreads, was created with a common goal in mind – utilize nature’s goodness by providing consumers with a delicious food that will enable them to feel better, perform better, and live better,” said Aranowicz. The team brainstormed numerous ideas and finally decided on the spreads after teammate Erin Mullen, who recently graduated as an FABM major, prepared a taste test of six different varieties. The product would be marketed at $3.50, putting the spreads into the high quality, low price category that consumers desire. While the team didn’t make it out of the preliminary round this year — no easy feat with roughly 30 university teams represented at the competition — Correale said that overall it was a great experience. “We never let stuff like that get us down. Just being there in general and being surrounded by all these industry professionals, it’s a great experience to jump start a career because it’s a lot of real world stuff,” said Correale. “The judges that you present your product to with your team are all industry professionals and they’re supposed to be your company’s board of directors. We’ve had professionals come in the past and talk to us before the competition and basically, they were all saying that this is what you would do for a sales presentation if you’re on a team like this. So, it’s all really good experience.” Toensmeyer added, “There was a lot of final preparation work to be done once the team reached Dallas in order to be ready for the competition. Patrick and Aubrey did an excellent job in guiding the team in Dallas.” Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Buler takes class up in hot air balloon to study landscape ecology

UD’s Buler takes class up in hot air balloon to study landscape ecologyTo best understand landscapes and how different ecosystems interact with one another, sometimes it’s necessary to take a bird’s-eye view. It was with that in mind that the University of Delaware’s Jeff Buler took students from his landscape ecology class up in a hot air balloon, so they could appreciate the inner workings of a landscape from the slow-moving confines of a hot air balloon basket. “The purpose of the balloon trip was to give these students who are in the landscape ecology class a real-life landscape perspective. I thought the best way to provide that is to go up in a hot air balloon,” said Buler, associate professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology. While there are other ways for the students to see a landscape from an aerial view — such as from a plane or via an aerial photograph or satellite imagery — Buler said that the finer details can be lost. “When we were a mile up, you would look down and you could distinguish forest patches from agricultural fields. We could even see the Delaware Bay and the Susquehanna River and the skyline of Philadelphia from that height, so we got a really broad perspective,” said Buler. “As we came down to just maybe 100 feet above the ground, you get this sort of zooming in on the landscape as you descend, which reveals more and more detail as you come down.” Among the interesting features the class was able to see were fields that had been plowed by tractors and those had been plowed by horses. UD’s Buler takes class up in hot air balloon to study landscape ecology“Most of the farms were Amish farms that we’d fly over. We flew so low that we could actually tell they had been plowed by horses because you’d see the hoof marks in the fields, which of course you couldn’t see if you were higher up,” said Buler. One of the things Buler wanted the students to get out of the trip was to be able to identify different landscape features, such as patches and edges and corridors, terms they talk about in class to characterize the landscape. This being Buler’s second time taking a class up in a hot air balloon (a previous trip was made in the spring of 2014) he said that it was interesting to see how the landscape the class viewed this time differed from the landscape seen on the previous trip. “It was a much more agricultural landscape than the other, which was more mixed and showed more of a gradient from rural to urban,” said Buler. In the highly developed agricultural landscape, the students were able to see the connectivity of the environment, getting a nice view of natural features such as streams and riparian corridors along those streams that play an integral role in water quality within a watershed. “Something that we talked a lot about in the course was how the water quality at one location is affected by inputs of pollution and other processes that are happening further upstream,” said Buler. “In this landscape, we were able to see streams that had nice intact riparian forest buffers but also other places where the farmers had cleared right up to the edge of the stream. It was a nice contrast to the last trip in that the students could better see how the stream networks were connected and where there were breaks in the riparian buffers that could be places where pollution could infiltrate.” Buler said that going up in the hot air balloon reinforces lessons that the undergraduate and graduate students learn in his class, specifically about how diverse landscapes throughout space and time are of the upmost importance. The class is also focused on managing habitat for wildlife, which has traditionally been done on a parcel by parcel basis, such as a piece of public land that is managed to create habitat for the species without consideration of how the larger landscape might affect what’s going on in that area. “The class is designed to get students to think more broadly and recognize that the broader landscape is important. It’s important to think about how energy flows through the landscape, and to realize, especially from a wildlife perspective, that it is important to maintain connectivity among habitat patches,” said Buler. “You might be able to produce a very nice suitable habitat but you simply might not have the wildlife species there that you’re interested in because they can’t get there. There might be some barrier that prevents them from physically moving to that location. As we fragment landscapes more and more, it’s becoming a lot harder for wildlife to disperse through the landscape to be able to find suitable habitat.” Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Evan Krape This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research receives USDA grants

Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research receives USDA grantsThe Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research (CBEAR), a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) national Center of Excellence that is housed in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has recently received multiple new grants to support innovative behavioral economics research at the nexus of agriculture and the environment. These projects have all received funding from the USDA’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Foundational Program and the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS): • Understanding Agricultural Water Use Behavior Through Randomized Controlled Trials. Mark Masters, director of the Georgia Water Planning and Policy Center at Albany State University, will be leading an initiative to use a randomized controlled trial to study participation in a voluntary information reporting program. The project will be conducted in Georgia and Colorado, where producers will be asked to report their monthly irrigation water usage to the program. • Behavioral Economics of Time Preferences, Risk Preferences and Agri-Environmental Program Participation among U.S. Producers. Paul J. Ferraro, the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Business and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, will lead a team that will use both theoretical and experimental methods to understand how producers view the benefits and costs of USDA programs. The results of these studies are expected to inform researchers how to elicit time and risk preferences from agricultural producer populations. • Conference on Advancing Behavioral and Experimental Economics Methods and Applications to Sustainable Environmental and Agricultural Management. Leah H. Palm-Forster, assistant professor in UD’s Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, will be organizing the Conference on Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research: Methodological Advancements and Applications to Policy. This conference will showcase experimental and behavioral economics research that addresses agri-environmental management and policy challenges. Additional information is available on the webpage.


CBEAR is a collaborative group of researchers that incorporates behavioral insights into program designs, primarily within USDA, to achieve greater levels of participation and satisfaction, improved environmental outcomes and reduced program costs. Directed jointly by research leaders at the University of Delaware and Johns Hopkins University and founded through funding from the USDA Economic Research Service, CBEAR efforts are supported by a diverse group of research professionals within academia and government from across the United States. For more information, visit the website. This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Equine Science Symposium Presentations

Justin Berg presented results from the Equine Microbiome ProjectAt the end of May, three undergraduate pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences students from the laboratory of Amy Biddle, assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, presented research posters at the biannual Equine Science Symposium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Justin Berg presented results from the Equine Microbiome Project, a nationwide initiative to understand factors leading to gut health in horses, and his study focused on diet. Brian Chambers detailed experiments from his senior thesis to characterize equine intestinal parasites (small strongyles) using molecular tools, and Haley Nelson shared her study of the geographic distribution of small strongyles across U.S. regions and climate zones. Berg and Chambers were Summer Scholars in 2016, and received travel grants from the UD Undergraduate Research Program to attend this meeting. Additional support for their research was given by the Thoroughbred Education and Research Foundation. The meeting was organized by the Equine Science Society, and attracted equine researchers from across the country. This story was included in last week’s For the Record which can be found on UDaily.

UD equine sciences students spend spring semester at Fair Hill International

UD equine sciences students spend spring semester at Fair Hill InternationalFour University of Delaware students with an interest in equine sciences spent their spring semester as interns at Fair Hill International (FHI) in nearby Maryland, learning the ins and outs of the equine industry and getting hands-on experience as they helped to put together an international equestrian event. This internship opportunity was supported by a College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Teaching Mini-Grant awarded for equine science outreach to Amy Biddle, assistant professor of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. Leveraging the proximity of FHI, an organization that hosts horse trials at all levels, the goal of the internship was to offer students hands-on experience in the world of competitive equine events from local starter shows to Olympic qualifying events. Those students included Kassandra Moyer, a senior majoring in animal and food sciences and agriculture and natural resources with a minor in food and agribusiness marketing and management; Jenna Deal, a sophomore pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major with an equine science minor; Jacklyn Rind, a sophomore pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major with a minor in biological sciences; and Charlotte Cilio, a junior majoring in animal and food sciences and agriculture and natural resources. The students said the internship program leaders at FHI did a great job of designing the first half of the internship to focus on a specific area of the equine industry for which they had an interest. Moyer, for instance, grew up on a dairy farm and wants to get into the dairy nutrition industry after school, with a specific interest in sales. Because of this interest, Carla Geiersbach, executive director of FHI who oversaw the students for the internship, put her in charge of selling advertising space in FHI’s horse trial program. “I thought the sales part of it was really beneficial for me personally because now I can actually put some numbers on my resume – I’m graduating, so that’s really important,” said Moyer. Deal is going down the veterinary road and said that she was able to get good veterinary experience through the internship. “There was a Foxcatcher endurance race and I got to help with the vet officials and check heart rates before the horses went on to actually be inspected by the vets,” said Deal. “Later on in the day, I got to hang out with the vets and talk to them, ask them about their experiences and what they suggest for vet school in the future. “Then throughout the competition, we got to help set up and see the mechanics that the horses have to go through and during the competition itself seeing them compete opened my eyes to what they actually go through and what I’ll be getting into.” Deal said that she would recommend the internship to students interested in equine sciences specifically because of how the staff at FHI worked to accommodate their areas of interest. “Just knowing that they want to work with you because that way you get the most out of it. They cycled us through to make sure that we all got to see the aspects of it but they definitely wanted it to pertain to our interests,” said Deal. The students also helped with an eventing competition at FHI that took place over a two-week span, and which they said took up a good chunk of the internship period. “We helped with set up, we helped walking the courses to find distances and optimum times for riders, and we helped with in-barn inspections because some of these horses are international horses that have passports and are microchipped. As such, they have to come in and be inspected by veterinarians to make sure their microchip matches their passport, make sure they have all their vaccinations and that they’re generally healthy so they can compete,” said Moyer. As for how they all found their love for horses, each said that it was instilled at a young age. “I was four and my mom wouldn’t let me ride until I turned five and I haven’t stopped since,” said Cilio. Deal said that she grew up around horses in her hometown where there were horse farms everywhere and Moyer started when she was five and got involved with the United States Pony Club. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

NSF grant to support development of cyberinfrastructure tools for precision agriculture

Modern precision agriculture requires an understanding of how climate-related factors such as soil moisture, precipitation, and temperature impact agricultural productivity. “As we enter an era of growing environmentally relevant data that can, for example, drive water management practices, new cyberinfrastructure tools and big data analytics are needed to extract knowledge and value-added products from the data,” says Michela Taufer, professor of computer science at the University of Delaware. Taufer, who has already brought her knowledge of data science to the field of medicine through collaborations with clinicians, is now teaming with ecosystem ecologist Rodrigo Vargas, associate professor in UD’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. The two recently received a three-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop cyberinfrastructure tools for precision agriculture in the 21st century. The work involves combining analytical geospatial approaches, machine learning methods, and high-performance computing techniques to build cyberinfrastructure tools that can transform how ecoinformatics data — that is information on landscapes, soils, climate, organisms, and ecosystems — is analyzed. “Available environmental data is exponentially increasing by including products derived from remote sensing, models, and ground observations,” Vargas says. “We have entered an era of environmental big data sets.” The developed tools will be made accessible for field practitioners through lightweight virtualization, mobile devices, and web applications, and the educational components will help train the public and students in using the tools supported by online tutorials — for example, through YouTube videos. Vargas explains that quantitative accessible information at relevant spatial scale is needed to better understand temporal variability, parameterize models, and accurately represent spatial soil moisture to improve agricultural practices. Feedback on the tools’ interoperability, usability, manageability, and sustainability will be “crowd-sourced” through input provided by users and collaborators at the United States Department of Agriculture and the International Soil Reference and Information Center in the Netherlands. The researchers expect the project to help answer a number of important questions, including how ecoinformatics data can be used to develop predictive capabilities for precision agriculture; what algorithms are required to analyze and synthesize ecoinformatics datasets; and what types of training and tools are needed for students, scientists, and field practitioners to use the data in a meaningful way. “Our project aims to combine knowledge, techniques, and expertise from plant and soil sciences and computer science to build tools for advancing agriculture production,” Vargas says. The research supports the “Growing Convergence Research at the National Science Foundation,” one of 10 Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments. The agency seeks to highlight the value of convergence as a process for catalyzing new research directions and advancing scientific discovery and innovation. Funding for the project was awarded by the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure and jointly supported by the Division of Earth Sciences within the NSF Directorate for Geosciences. Vargas and Taufer also received a University of Delaware Research Foundation seed grant that is complementing the integration across these two disciplines driven by a compelling problem such as precise agriculture.
Article by Diane Kukich
Photo by Wenbo Fan
This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD landscape architecture students, Master Gardeners conduct planting at Delaware’s newest state park

UD landscape architecture students, Master Gardeners conduct planting at Delaware’s newest state parkThe Delaware Landscape Architecture (DELA) student club at the University of Delaware and members of Cooperative Extension’s Delaware Master Gardeners in New Castle County spent time on Friday, May 12, conducting a planting at Auburn Heights Preserve in order to enhance the curb appeal of Delaware’s newest state park and also give the students a hands-on learning opportunity. Maggie Heffernan, a junior landscape architecture major who started DELA in the fall of 2016, said that members of the club worked with the Master Gardeners a few weeks prior to the event to map out where they wanted to plant and to get a sense of what officials at Auburn Heights wanted out of the planting. “We just did a big spread of annual plantings in the front area for this coming season,” said Heffernan. “We’re not doing any perennial plantings because they don’t want anything that’s going to stay in the ground because we’re hoping to work with Auburn Heights next year in our senior design class to actually make a master plan for them.” Heffernan said that it was a great experience to work at Auburn Heights as well as with the Master Gardeners. “It was really beneficial for both our students and the Master Gardeners because we got to see different perspectives. A lot of them know a lot more about horticulture than most of our students do so it was nice to see that balance because we know more of the design part. It was nice to work with them that way,” said Heffernan. Carrie Murphy, extension agent and the lawn and garden program leader, said that it’s a good fit for the students to work with the Master Gardeners. “The Master Gardeners have been delighted to partner and work with the bachelor of landscape architecture (BLA) faculty, students, and our community partners. We look forward to continuing to work together at Auburn Heights, and to additional opportunities to provide community assistance together in the future,” said Murphy. Laura Lee, park superintendent for the Auburn Heights Preserve, said that the planting was designed to help “immediately beautify the front of the mansion and give it some curb appeal because it is becoming increasingly more popular as a rental venue. We want to book weddings out here and we really wanted people to pull in the drive way and have that wow effect as they came in.” Lee said that the annuals the students planted look great and that they give an immediate boost to the appeal of the property. “The annuals will look brighter more quickly so it looks great. It really makes a difference,” said Lee, who added that these types of partnerships make a world of difference to a park like Auburn Heights. “As a state agency, we’re always under a budget crunch. A project like this might fall by the wayside in favor of just keeping the doors open, so we rely on partnerships to make all of our parks affordable, safe and beautiful for all of Delaware residents,” said Lee. “This partnership enabled us to do something that we might not normally have been able to do on our own and I think it gives the students a real-world experience. It really helped them understand how a real landscape architect might operate in the context of an actual living site.” Sue Barton, professor and extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), said that in addition to the senior capstone course, BLA program is hoping to collaborate more with Auburn Heights in the future. “It’s a really neat facility and there’s a lot of opportunity to do something nice there. It’s a beautiful old home, there are a lot of grounds, and there were some really interesting gardens,” said Barton. Anna Wik, assistant professor of landscape architecture, said that this is the exact type of community partnership that the professors had in mind when the BLA program began. “It has been great working with Laura Lee over the past few years to inventory existing plant material along with David Nemeth, an agriculture and natural resources major, and I look forward to working with landscape architecture students and Linda Walczak of Tend Landscape Architecture, this fall to create a master plan for the site,” said Wik. Wik added that “As plans to adapt buildings associated with industry in the Yorklyn area develop, sites like Auburn Heights have the opportunity to educate people about these industries and a fascinating time period in Delaware’s history. In addition, the master gardeners are a great resource for the students and a joy to work with. We are in discussions about piloting a student/master gardener partnership that expands on the existing ‘Expert Eye’ program to provide non-profit and municipal partners planting, hardscape and design advice.”

About Auburn Heights

Auburn Heights is a partnership between Delaware State Parks and the Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve. On the property is the Marshall Steam Museum, which has the largest operating collection of Stanley Steamer cars in the world, a growing trails system and a miniature railroad that runs around the property. For more information on Auburn Heights, visit the website. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

June 9: Poultry Respiratory Health Seminar

June 9: Poultry Respiratory Health SeminarThe University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources will hold a Poultry Respiratory Health Seminar on Friday, June 9 from 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Charles C. Allen Jr. Biotechnology Laboratory in Newark. The Poultry Respiratory Health Seminar is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Poultry Respiratory Disease Combined Agriculture Project (PRDCAP). Respiratory diseases continue to be a major concern to poultry producers because losses induced by respiratory diseases have a significant local and national economic impact to the industry. Protection of poultry by effective prevention and control of diseases is critical to maintain wholesome poultry products, which is the most consumed animal protein in the United States. Such efforts make a significant contribution towards national food security. The PRDCAP is designed to rapidly transfer new science to the field. Eric Benson, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS), said that the workshop is “part of a multi-institution combined agriculture project. One of UD’s roles is to link the scientific information being developed in laboratories to the end users, many who would not use refereed publications as an information source. Speakers from UD will include Benson, Robert Alphin, senior instructor in ANFS and Allen Laboratory manager, Daniel Bautista, senior scientist, Calvin Keeler, professor of molecular virology, and Brian Ladman, scientist and quality manager for the University of Delaware Poultry Health System (UDPHS), part of ANFS. Other speakers include Jon Moyle and Nathan Tablante from the University of Maryland, Timothy Johnson from the University of Minnesota, and Emily Aston from the University of Georgia. The program is being run in advance of the Emergency Poultry Disease Response (EPDR) Certificate Course. To register visit: For additional information on the seminar, contact Eric Benson at 302-275-2131 or (

UD’s Webb Farm offers independent study students hands-on learning opportunities

UD’s Webb Farm offers independent study students hands-on learning opportunitiesFour University of Delaware undergraduates have spent their spring semesters on Webb Farm as independent study students, gaining valuable hands-on experience about what it’s like to work with lambs, sheep, beef cattle and horses in a real-world environment. Under the guidance of Larry Armstrong, farm manager, students Jeff Chubbs, Hunter Harrow, Alexis Omar and Charles Scarff work different times and days of the week, learning the ins and outs of farming and discovering what aspects they like best about the job. “This year’s independent study group is very diverse and everyone brings something new to the table. Everyone’s found their own little niche whether it’s working with the sheep and monitoring the lamb weights and health, focusing on cattle work, and we’re doing some overall pasture management,” said Armstrong. “That’s what we like about the independent study students. We want to teach them things but we want them to find their passion and we want them to say, ‘I want to learn more about this.’ A lot of times that leads the way.” Armstrong said he is hoping the students gain executive function from their time out on the farm, learning to solve problems in a real-world environment. “I’m available but I try to keep it independent because they’re going to get more out of it that way,” said Armstrong. “It’s very much problem-based learning. It can be as simple as how to develop a routine for feeding and there’s things that we need to do but how we get them done is open for them to figure out. That’s my favorite part about this year’s group. We’re diverse and everyone is finding their own passion and area of study.”

Hunter Harrow

Harrow, a senior studying animal and food science with a minor in forensics, said her independent study focuses on sheep and calf management and added that Armstrong is great about teaching the students. “Larry basically wants to help us learn so he’ll say ‘give this medicine, administer this shot,’ so it’s more experience for us but we’re also taking it for class credit so it kills two birds with one stone,” said Harrow. Her favorite part is working with the lambs and the newborn calves on the farm. “Who doesn’t love a baby animal? The fact that we get to actually raise farm animals, that they’re ours and it’s our responsibility is an incredible experience,” said Harrow, who added that it was beneficial to work directly with the animals and with record keeping to track how the animals progressed throughout the semester.

Charles Scarff

Scarff, a junior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources whose father is a cattle dealer and grew up around farm animals, said he is focused on beef cattle but has also worked with sheep when they were lambing early in the semester. He has also found a passion for the horses on the farm. “I’m taking a couple of equine classes. My older sister rode show horses, and I think that’s why I have an interest in them. I would like to do something with them,” said Scarff. As for the most beneficial aspect of the independent study, Scarff said that it definitely had to be the hands-on learning. “Before the cows started to calve, we were weighing the heifers and the steers. Now, since the cows are calving, we’re weighing the calves, tagging them and everything like that – just keeping an eye on them,” said Scarff.

Jeff Chubbs

Chubbs, a junior studying natural resource management, said that during his time on the farm, he worked closely with the livestock, sheep and cows. He also worked with a colleague in developing an exercise routine for some of the horses. “We typically perform ground work in the arena, ride on pasture and have recently had the experience of introducing a new thoroughbred into the herd,” said Chubbs. His favorite part has been learning how to ride, train and manage the horses. “They’re wonderful and well-mannered creatures, which has ultimately inspired me to write the research paper I’m currently working on for the independent study with the help of Lesa Griffiths [the T.A. Baker Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources],” said Chubbs. As for the most beneficial aspect, Chubbs said that it’s “getting exposure to how agriculture management strategies affect the pasture, livestock and practically all elements of the entire system. Farming can be extremely brutal and intensive on the land and environment, but it can also be practiced in a way that leads to sustainability and long-term health of the animals and soil.”

Alexis Omar

Omar, a junior majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences with a double minor in wildlife conservation and theatre studies, said that her main focus was the sheep during lambing season. “Now that lambing season is over, I have been working with Larry in the overall care of the farm. Besides working with the lambs, which was my personal focus, I also have helped with the beef cattle. Now that it is spring, the beef cattle are allowed to go out and graze on the pasture. I have helped put up fences for the beef cattle, to block off certain areas of the pasture so the cows don’t over graze,” said Omar. Omar said she loves working on the farm, being outdoors and getting an experience that helped her realize how much she enjoys working with sheep. “I love working with sheep and would like to pursue sheep production or be involved in some way with the sheep industry. I would not have realized how much I enjoy working with sheep if it weren’t for this independent study,” said Omar. Both Omar and Scarff also thanked Griffiths for letting them know about the independent study experience.
 Article by Adam Thomas
Photo by Wenbo Fan
This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Department of Applied Economics and Statistics offers students hands-on learning opportunities

UD’s Department of Applied Economics and Statistics offers students hands-on learning opportunitiesThis semester, 11 undergraduate students in the University of Delaware’s Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC) have worked as teaching assistants (TAs) for various professors in the department, getting hands-on learning experiences working with their peers while at the same time allowing the professors to expand their curriculum or focus on research projects by alleviating a bit of the teaching work load. Tom Ilvento, professor and chair of APEC, said that while having undergraduate TAs isn’t new for the department, it is something that he is trying to push as another way to give undergraduates an experiential learning opportunity and a chance to get involved. “We’re viewing it as an experience for the student as much as help for the faculty so we’ve developed a new policy that the department would support this,” said Ilvento. “We think this is a good investment for the faculty and the student. We’ve got to find a way to teach more but still hold the line that we’re a research department. We’re looking at teaching smarter, teaching larger and being more effective and offering support to faculty, and this is a way to do that. We think the best way to learn a subject is to be involved in teaching it.” Leah Palm-Forster, assistant professor in APEC, had three student teaching assistants this past semester and said that they allowed her the opportunity to incorporate frequent assessments, such as in-class polls, problem sets, quizzes and discussion boards into her classes that “provide opportunities for students to apply and test their understanding of course concepts – hopefully these activities increase knowledge retention.” Palm-Forster said that working with undergraduate TAs has “improved how I teach. TAs provide feedback about how course content is presented, and they let me know what knowledge gaps they notice when grading or answering student questions.” Keith Medwid, a senior majoring in food and agribusiness marketing and management, was a TA for Palm-Forster and said that his role included everything from grading tests and assignments to assisting with in-class activities, answering student questions and updating course material with more accurate figures and information. Being able to help the students was Medwid’s favorite part of the experience. “If they have a question or do not understand the material, working with them to understand the material is rewarding,” said Medwid. “Many of the situations when a student needs help, it creates a challenge for us to understand the material better and figure out a new way to explain it to the student. This allows me to reassure and strengthen my knowledge on the topic as well as create new ways to explain things.” Candace Casey, a junior majoring in wildlife conservation and agriculture and natural resources and minoring in resource economics, and Erica Rossetti, a senior majoring in natural resource management and agriculture and natural resources, also worked with Palm-Forster as TAs and said that the process gave them an appreciation for everything that professors do behind the scenes. “I don’t go to the class that I TA for because I have another class at that time so most of what I do is online but it’s a lot of grading,” said Rossetti. “I don’t grade everything but there will be some weeks where I spend 15 hours just working on grading, and I can’t imagine doing that and going to class and doing research.” In addition to helping grade, they also helped Palm-Forster develop questions for exams and create some course content. Casey said she thinks it is a big benefit to have TAs readily available to help answer any questions that students might have. “I feel like it’s a good resource if they’re too intimidated to go to the professors. It’s nice to have a peer because a lot of the people that are in these classes are people that are also in our major and we know them and are friends with them so we can be more approachable if they have questions or need help on assignments,” said Casey. Grace Hassler, a senior natural resource management major, has been a TA this semester for Olena Smith, the lead geospatial information consultant at UD, for APEC 480, a class focused on geographic information systems (GIS) and natural resource management. Hassler, who took the class previously, said that the class meets for one three-hour session each week, which she attends and then also helps out in the lab. “Most of the time, students are pretty good on their own but sometimes, especially with GIS, problems can arise and so I’m there to help them through that or if they have just general questions, I’m there,” said Hassler. Outside of class, Hassler grades assignments and assists students on an as-needed basis. She said that it is an interesting and fun experience meeting new students in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and grading her peers. Hassler said that for as much as she learned from taking the class, she has learned even more being a TA. “Olena has also taught me so much and taught me how to instruct well on top of that, and she’s always been so patient. If I don’t know the answer, she’s always willing to show me and explain to me what the answer is so that in the future I can be the one to tell them what to do,” said Hassler. Jessica Simmons, a senior majoring in statistics, has spent the semester as a TA for Melissa Ziegler, a senior biostatistician in the College of Health Sciences, for Stat 674, a graduate-level class that teaches Statistical Analysis System (SAS) programming. Simmons took the class last semester and said that her favorite part and the most beneficial aspect about being a TA is grading. “I learn a lot through grading and I’m really bad at explaining things to people so I’ve gotten better at that,” said Simmons. “I really like the program so I’m learning every time I’m working. I guess that’s why it benefits me personally.” Simmons said that her responsibilities in addition to grading include helping students outside of class and helping students prepare for exams.
 Article by Adam Thomas
Photo by Wenbo Fan
This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Michele Walfred receives the 2017 CANR Excellence in Service Award

Michele Walfred, communications specialist at the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown, has received the 2017 Excellence in Service Award from the College of Agriculture and Natural ResourcesMichele Walfred, communications specialist at the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown, was honored with the 2017 Excellence in Service Award.  The award was presented to her at the convocation ceremony held in Newark on May 26 by the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). The award, which is presented by the college every other year, recognizes professional excellence and superior dedication.  In addition, the recipient receives a $2,000 monetary award with the honor. “Michele has significantly reached across her unit to provide outstanding service to our college. Her efforts and commitment to promoting our college is exemplary” said Mark Isaacs, director of the Carvel Center. Walfred has 16 years of service to UD. Isaacs shared in his nomination letter that Walfred began her UD career as a receptionist and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree while, “providing amazing service to our facility as well as our college.” “In her role as communications specialist, Walfred leads the communication efforts for our Carvel Research and Education Center’s research and extension programs, including Lasher Lab. She does this through numerous venues with a focus on website content, social media, press releases, videography and print media and outreach education in the forms of seminars, workshops and trainings,” Isaacs wrote. In addition to Walfred’s service across college programs and departments, her involvement with partnerships and outreach across state lines was noted. These included trainings and presentations with the University of Maryland Extension on Annie’s Project, Mid-Atlantic Women in Agriculture, Mid-Atlantic Crop School, regional FFA, and nationally with 4-H and, the latter serving as an Extension Fellow, and Innovation Creative Coach to Extension professionals in Ohio and Oregon. In 2015, Walfred led a social media campaign on behalf of Delaware 4-H, that resulted in a national First Place award of $10,000, which was used for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for Delaware youth. “Michele has an exceptional work ethic, working outside the normal work hours including many nights and weekends promoting and marketing our college and UD,” Isaacs said. In supporting documentation, colleagues praised Walfred as an innovator. “She truly understands that in order to reach the people we serve, we sometimes have to think differently and creatively than we have in the past,” wrote one co-worker. “Delaware Cooperative Extension outreach has been able to shine through her efforts. Locally she has done YouTube videos, Facebook Live, Flickr, Twitter, advertising with Facebook boosts, Instagram, press releases and UDaily articles to promote our gardening, beginning farmer, ornamental horticulture, production agriculture, and volunteer programs,” wrote another co-worker. For several years Walfred served as communications chair for the Kent-Sussex Alumni Club, and is a contributing member of the UD’s Delaware Diamonds Society. She has served as chair of Extension’s Delaware State Fair committee and currently chairs the UD Extension Innovation team. She is a current Fellow in Class IV of LEADelaware, an agriculture leadership program. In addition to her degrees, Walfred earned the UD Social Media Strategic Marketing Certificate in 2014. Walfred also serves on the board of the Delaware Press Association. “Michele exemplifies the type of individual that the college would like to recognize for this award. I can’t think of a more deserving individual,” said Isaacs.

UDairy Creamery opens new storefront in Wilmington

Grand opening ceremony, block party, and ceremonial “first scoop” in recognition of the opening of the first off-campus location for the UDairy Creamery.  (Evan Krape / University of Delaware)
The University of Delaware’s UDairy Creamery officially launched its first off-campus location on Tuesday, May 23, with a block party on the 800 block of Market Street in downtown Wilmington, Delaware, outside the new Creamery Market Storefront. The two-hour block party had everything from free ice cream, tributes from dignitaries, an elementary school drumline medley, UD cheerleaders, YoUDee and a poetry reading about ice cream from one of UD’s Associate in Arts students. Over the two-hour time period, the Creamery handed out 1,500 scoops of free ice cream to those in attendance. UD President Dennis Assanis kicked off the festivities by welcoming everyone to the storefront and stressing how the new Creamery Market will give the Associate in Arts students a hands-on learning experience while also bringing a sweet treat to the city. “We are proud to share with you not only our ice cream but also our students,” Assanis said. “At the University of Delaware, we say that students are our product and ice cream is just the byproduct. We are really thrilled that our students from our Wilmington Associate in Arts Program around the corner are going to be the people who will be the part-time employees involved in the production and serving of the ice cream. “We also don’t just scoop the ice cream here, we actually make it,” he continued. “Experiential learning is a very big part of what we teach our students at the University of Delaware, and it’s all about hands-on learning, literally, and you will be the beneficiaries of the application of the learning today.” Delaware Gov. John Carney said the revitalization of the city of Wilmington was of the utmost importance to his administration and getting attractions like the University of Delaware on the Market Street Mall will help the city to be successful. “We need some ice cream downtown number one, and we need business here on the Market Street Mall,” said Carney. “We’ve been working since I was sworn in as your governor three and a half months ago on doing everything that we can to strengthen the neighborhoods in our city, to strengthen our central business district and to make Wilmington strong and vibrant again. You are the folks that are going to make it happen by coming down here on the Market Street Mall, so thank you for coming today.” Wilmington Mayor Michael Purzycki, a 1967 UD graduate, said it is truly exciting to have the Creamery in Wilmington, both because ice cream is an admitted guilty pleasure and it is a unique attraction for the city. “Everybody wants the city to grow in big leaps and bounds, but the city grows in small increments of quality,” Purzycki said. “It’s the small things that make a city great. It’s the little individual things, the things that are special that nobody else has that make your city great, and we welcome you with open arms.” Michael Hare, senior vice president of the Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG), said his firm couldn’t be prouder to have UD as a partner. BPG has been the driving force behind the revitalization of downtown Wilmington and its historic Market Street corridor. The firm partnered with UD to bring the Creamery to Wilmington and owns the site where the Creamery Market Storefront is located. UDairy Creamery opens new storefront in Wilmington“The key to getting people to want to work in Wilmington, to want to live here, is to add amenities for our residents who are already here and to make this a compelling city is to bring exciting attractions to our city, and this is an exciting attraction,” said Hare. “We in the city have been working for years to expand the University’s footprint, and I can’t think of a more delicious way to do that. On behalf of the lactose-intolerant in our community, myself included, this is a risk worth taking.” Hare noted that his uncle majored in agriculture at UD and milked the cows on UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus. He said it was a privilege to watch the “full trajectory of cow to cone now that this ice cream is in Wilmington.” CANR Dean Mark Rieger highlighted the UD students who helped put together the business plan for the Creamery Market Storefront, specifically Keith Medwid, a senior majoring in food and agribusiness marketing and management and the assistant manager intern at the creamery. “Keith Medwid worked at the Creamery on campus for two years, and he is going to go on to a wonderful career in agribusiness or food science because of his experience in the Creamery,” said Rieger. “The reason that we’re here, and the product of that place across the street is a better educated student.” Rieger also thanked Melinda Shaw, director of Creamery operations, LeeAnne Ahamad, manager for the Creamery’s Wilmington location, Jen Rodammer, manager of UDairy’s Newark location, and Grace Wisser, CANR event coordinator, for all their work with the Creamery and with putting the opening event together.

Associate in Arts student workers

The new location provides a great job opportunity for many students in the University’s Associate in Arts program. “It’s my first real day and I already love it,” said Ameerah Taylor, a rising freshman planning to major in early childhood education. She and her fellow co-workers agreed that UDairy’s willingness to work with their schedules made their lives a lot easier. Other perks of the job include free ice cream, getting to suggest new flavors and camaraderie. Derek Simpson, a rising freshman planning to major in biology, said that he had taken classes with some of his co-workers, but working with them in this setting was already bringing them closer together. “When you’re producing ice cream, you get to know people,” Simpson said. Blaise Cristello, a sophomore planning to major in criminal justice, said that he was most excited to see what new flavors come out of the new location. While he could not disclose the new ones, he was happy to serve the new flavor that had been created for the grand opening: 8th and Market, which was inspired by the new UDairy location and consisted of chocolate ice cream, chocolate cookie swirls and mini-marshmallows. Medwid said that he is excited to see the impact that the new UDairy Creamery will have. “I think it’ll be good to get fresh food in here because we’re going to be selling UD produce,” Medwid said. “And I think it’s just a more welcoming face,” he added. More than UD produce, the creamery will be selling locally sourced foods with a menu that will include grilled cheese using bread from local bakeries and eventually cheese that will also come from UD, cheeseburgers, and salads that feature UD’s produce.
UDairy Creamery opens new storefront in Wilmington
Elbert-Palmer Elementary School drumline also was on hand for the event, playing an impressive set

Poetry contest and drumline

The UD Associate in Arts Program held an ice-cream themed poetry contest in conjunction with the event. The winners were Christian Wills, first place, and runners-up Nolan O’Neill and Daniel L.L. III. Wills read his winning poem, “Creamery Sensation,” to the crowd ending with the line: “Every cup, every cone, we make it with pleasure, In hopes that you love our ice cream we treasure.” The Elbert-Palmer Elementary School drumline also was on hand for the event, playing an impressive set that included everything from classical music to a royal-themed contemporary line-up of hits from Prince, Queen and Michael Jackson. Article by Adam Thomas and Anne Grae Martin Photos by Evan Krape and Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD students show off innovative culinary creations

UD students show off innovative culinary creationsStudents in the University of Delaware’s Food Science Capstone course got to show off their semester-long work as part of the Ag Day 2017 festivities with a display featuring edible cookie dough, fiber pop and even a portion of chips that provides consumers with all of their calories, carbs, protein, fats and fiber. The tasty treats were available inside Townsend Hall as the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) welcomed the Delaware community to its campus on Saturday, April 29. Rolf Joerger, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences who teaches the class, said that he was proud of the students’ accomplishments. “Even though most of the students are in their last semester, they enthusiastically engaged in their projects. Not only did they have to come up with an idea for a product that was not already available on the market, but they had to figure out which ingredients would be most suitable and in what quantities,” said Joerger. In addition, Joerger explained that the students had to come up with a feasible production process, develop appropriate packaging for their product, create a package design, generate a nutrition label, develop and document quality controls, calculate pricing and familiarize themselves with the applicable government regulations. “These tasks are made a little easier because the students work in teams, but then coordinating schedules and working together productively is not always so simple. All in all, working on these projects is excellent preparation for a job in the food industry,” he said.

Gonut Bites

Brendan Scott, Kyra Fivek, Patrick Cozza and Suzanne Sungenis formed the Gonut Bites team, which came up with the idea to have miniature donuts filled with home-made ice cream in flavors such as Boston crème, jelly, chocolate and vanilla frosted. The team said that the product is similar to “doughnut holes” on the market, such as Dunkin’ Donuts’ Munchkins or Entenmann’s POP’ems. Once the cooked doughnts cooled, they used a frosting tip to fill them with their own soft-serve ice cream, which they made at Vita Nova, the fine dining, student-operated restaurant on campus.

Cookie Chews

The Cookie Chews: Edible Cookie Dough group was made up of Matt Bogdan, Amanda Chasten, Allison Ni and June Teichmann. Ni said that the target audience for the product would be teens, young adults and “people who like trendy food because cookie dough is very trendy nowadays. This could even be a kind of on the go snack.” Besides the cookie dough ball base, the group also did trials on coating it with chocolate or vanilla frosting as well as injecting it with Nutella and peanut butter. The flavors the group decided on included cookies and cream, Nutella and peanut butter, coffee and chocolate chip and funfetti. Ni said that the group ended up using whole oat flour in their product instead of all-purpose flour because “whole oat flour is gluten-free, which would appeal to those who believe that being gluten-free is a healthier lifestyle.”


The Nourich team included Louis Colaruotolo, Yara Abdelaal and Spencer Hoernes, and theirs is a chip product containing all of the macro-nutrients for a fully balanced diet when eaten in the required portion. The group said that the product would be marketable to military personnel looking for less bulky alternatives to meals, weight loss seekers and those hoping to eat healthier in general. Because of the ability to eat the chips throughout the day to get the portion required for a fully balanced diet, the group was experimenting with different flavors to appeal to customers at different times of the day. “I think at some point, if you’re going to decide that your entire life is going to be eating chips for all of your nutrition, you’re going to [need some variety]. We made a coffee flavor for the morning and then we’re also going to try a chocolate and then a chocolate raspberry flavor and see how all of those work out,” said Colaruotolo.

Fiber Pop

The Fiber Pop group consisted of Rizalina Gadaingan, Warren Skopowski and Nicholas Sloman. Fiber Pop is an apple ginger juice with berry spheres which contain apple fibers by use of an alginate bath. The drink utilized left over apple fibers to reduce waste that other juices typically wouldn’t use. Skopowski said that it is similar to bubble tea. “It’s like the bubble tea with chai bubbles. Instead of the bubble tea that you see in a lot of Korean tea shops where there’s tapioca bubbles at the bottom, ours is floating at the top, which makes it good for when we’re packaging it and when we distribute it in the plastic bottles, they’ll be floating at the top so when you open it and drink it, every sip you get some of the bubbles and the juice mixed together,” said Skopowski.

Algae Oil Chip Dippers

The Algae Oil Chip Dippers team was made up of Brienna Anderson, Kimberly Markham and Rachel Smith. The group said that the sweet-and-spicy chip-and-dip snack is a flavorful, convenient, gluten-free product made with algae oil. Both the chips and mayonnaise-style dip were created using algae oil, which is an excellent source of monounsaturated fats and has 75 percent less saturated fat than olive oil. The corn tortilla chips are baked and sweetened to provide a flavor that complements the spice of the dip. The dip and chips are packaged in a single serving portion with environmentally friendly plastics and do not require refrigeration until after opening. Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researchers travel to Brazil to study heat stress in poultry

UD researchers travel to Brazil to study heat stress in poultryUniversity of Delaware undergraduate student Blair Schneider spent time in Brazil earlier this year getting samples from chickens to help with research looking to see if there is something genetically that allows the Brazilian birds to better deal with heat stress than American broiler chickens. The research is being led at UD by Carl Schmidt, professor and genome scientist in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and is part of a five-year, $4.7 million National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) climate change grant for a project titled “Adapting Chicken Production to Climate Change Through Breeding,” which includes Iowa State University and North Carolina State University, as well. With the researchers having previously sampled birds in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, Schneider, a senior majoring in biological sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences, said that the group wanted to look at South American chickens along the same equatorial line to see if there were any similarities with their African counterparts. “We took blood samples and we’re going to get the genome sequenced to see what genes overlap between the African birds and the South American birds. We would hypothesize these [overlapping genes] are due to heat and heat stress or heat acclimation,” said Schneider. If the researchers can identify those overlapping genes, they might be able to potentially breed beneficial genes into the modern broiler line in the face of heat waves. To collect their samples, the researchers were guided by Matheus Reis, a postdoc at Sao Paulo State University (UNESP) in Jaboticabal, Brazil, who also spent a year at UD. Reis helped the researchers collect samples and connected them with a local farmer named Mário Irineu Salviato. The farm at which Salviato worked had 150 different breeds of chicken and the researchers took 200 blood samples from a variety of different breeds, such as ones known as Brazilian Musicians because of how much they sing. UD researchers travel to Brazil to study heat stress in poultryIn addition to collecting the samples, Schneider said that she enjoyed being able to experience the Brazilian culture. “Even at the times when I wasn’t collecting, I felt like I was learning so much. We visited UNESP, as well, and I was able to give a presentation there and then some of the students there gave presentations, and so it was a nice sharing of projects and scientific discussion,” said Schneider. Schneider said that she enjoys doing genetics work because she likes to understand how things work down to their most basic level. “My mind is down to the gene level. That’s why I wanted to study genetics but when I entered this lab, Dr. Schmidt made me go through the entire process of collecting the samples as well as analyzing the data and so I have an immense appreciation for the entire process,” said Schneider. “Anyone could just take a tissue from a sample and extract it but you get a new appreciation collecting it yourself.” Now a senior, Schneider is getting ready to go to graduate school and said that she is interested in the genetics behind the differentiation of stem cells. “But I’m willing to change. I’m flexible. If I can find an interest in something, it’s very easy for me to become passionate about it,” said Schneider. Article by Adam Thomas Illustrations by Jeff Chase This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Injured plants warn neighbors of danger, UD study finds

Dr. Harsh Bais and Charter School of Wilmington Connor Sweeney work together in the plant growth chamber in DBI.  High School student Sweeney will be going to MIT with a double major in the Fall.When Harsh Bais, a botanist at the University of Delaware, emailed Connor Sweeney to tell the high school student he would be willing to mentor him on a research project, Sweeney, a competitive swimmer, was so ecstatic he could have swum another 200-meter butterfly at practice. “I knew I would have a lot to learn, but I was ready for that,” says the 18-year-old from Wilmington, Delaware. Two years and dozens of experiments later, Sweeney, now a senior at Charter School of Wilmington, is the first author of a research article published in Frontiers in Plant Science, a leading scientific journal — a rare achievement for a high school student. What Sweeney and Bais discovered at UD may make you think differently from now on when you mow the lawn or the cat starts noshing on your houseplants. In studies of Arabidopsis thaliana, also known as mustard weed, the team found that when a leaf was nicked, the injured plant sent out an emergency alert to neighboring plants, which began beefing up their defenses. “A wounded plant will warn its neighbors of danger,” says Bais, who is an associate professor of plant and soil sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “It doesn’t shout or text, but it gets the message across. The communication signals are in the form of airborne chemicals released mainly from the leaves.” Sweeney delved into work in Bais’ lab at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute after school, on weekends and during summer breaks, culturing an estimated thousand Arabidopsis plants for experiments. Seeds were placed in petri plates and test tubes containing agar, a gelatinous growing medium. Each batch of seeds would germinate after about six days, transforming into delicate-stemmed three-inch plants with bright-green leaves. One day in the lab, Sweeney put two plants a few centimeters apart on the same petri plate and made two small cuts on the leaf of one to simulate an insect’s attack. What happened next, as Sweeney says, was “an unexpected surprise.” The next day, the roots on the uninjured neighbor plant had grown noticeably longer and more robust — with more lateral roots poking out from the primary root. “It was crazy — I didn’t believe it at first,” Bais says. “I would have expected the injured plant to put more resources into growing roots. But we didn’t see that.” Bais asked Sweeney to repeat the experiment multiple times, partitioning the plants to rule out any communication between the root systems. In previous research, Bais had shown how soil bacteria living among the roots can signal leaf pores, called stomata, to close up to keep invasive pathogens out. “The reason why the uninjured plant is putting out more roots is to forage and acquire more nutrients to strengthen its defenses,” Bais says. “So we began looking for compounds that trigger root growth.” Sweeney measured auxin, a key plant growth hormone, and found more of this gene expressed in neighboring plants when an injured plant was around. He also confirmed that neighbor plants of injured plants express a gene that corresponds to a malate transporter (ALMT-1). Malate attracts beneficial soil microbes, including Bacillus subtilis, which Bais and his colleagues discovered several years ago. Apparently, uninjured plants that are in close proximity to injured ones and that have increased malate transporter associate more with these microbes. These beneficials bond with the roots of the uninjured plants to boost their defenses.

Homing in on chemical signals

“So the injured plant is sending signals through the air. It’s not releasing these chemicals to help itself, but to alert its plant neighbors,” Bais says. What are these mysterious concoctions, known scientifically as volatile organic compounds, and how long do they persist in the atmosphere or in soil for that matter — is it like a spritz of perfume or the lingering aroma of fresh-cooked popcorn? “We don’t know yet,” says Bais, who has already started this next leg of the research. “But if you go through a field of grass after it’s been mowed or a crop field after harvesting, you’ll smell these compounds.” Bais credits Sweeney for the discovery, praising his hard work and willingness to learn, on top of his other high school studies and swimming upwards of 22 hours a week. “You have to approach this work with dedication and completeness. You can’t just do it halfway,” Bais says. “In Connor, you have grad student material. Wherever he will go, he will shine.” “Working with Dr. Bais has been great,” Sweeney says. “Most kids don’t get to work in a lab. I’ve actually completed the whole project and written a paper. It’s very exciting.” Sweeney also credits swimming for helping him with the science. “Swimming requires a certain level of mental tenacity — it requires staring at the bottom of a pool,” he says. “The learning curve here was very steep for me. When I had contamination in a lab sample, when I breathed on something, I had to start over. But the patience and diligence I’ve learned have made me a better scientist.” The son of UD alums, Sweeney first visited the Delaware Biotechnology Institute as an eighth grader, for a boot camp on basic laboratory procedures, which sparked his interest in research. He has since won the 2016 Delaware BioGENEius Challenge, was a 2016 international BioGENEius Challenge finalist and was named a semifinalist in the 2017 Regeneron Science Talent Search. This fall, he will head off to MIT, double-majoring in economics and biological engineering. “I’m interested in looking at the agricultural side of science,” he says. “It may not sound sexy, but everybody needs to eat. So if you can use cutting-edge technologies in genomics that feed more people while lessening the environmental footprint, that’s where I want to be.” Article by Tracey Brant This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researchers look at population history of sika deer in Delmarva

UD researchers look at population history of sika deer in DelmarvaOn first glance, Yakushima Island in Japan and Dorchester County, Maryland, wouldn’t appear to have a lot in common, but a closer ecological look reveals one stark similarity: both are home to populations of sika deer. A new paper by the University of Delaware’s Jake Bowman and David Kalb of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries looks at the history behind the rise of sika deer populations in Dorchester County over the past 100 years. The paper was published in the journal Biological Invasions and also examines impacts sika deer have had on the native white-tailed deer populations in an attempt to provide information that could lead to better management of the species. Bowman, chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that the paper was part of a bigger project looking at whether there was a competitive exclusion between white-tailed deer and sika deer. “There’s large sections of Dorchester County that have almost no white-tails but very high sika deer numbers, and it seems like the sika deer are spreading, so the question becomes, are they going to outcompete white-tails, which is our native deer,” said Bowman.

Sika history

Sika deer first came to the United States in 1916 and the initial population of four or five individuals has grown to an estimated 12,000 today. Bowman said that there has been some genetic work that suggests the sika deer originated on Yakushima Island in Japan though the deer that eventually made their way to the United States did so after a brief stopover in the United Kingdom. The deer were brought to the UK by the eleventh Duke of Bedford. The sika deer were introduced to Maryland in the early 1900s when Clement Henry released five or six deer on James Island. While the deer originated in Japan, they are now more populous in Maryland. “There’s more sika deer here than on Yakushima Island and they’re a protected species in Japan so they can’t be harvested at all,” said Bowman. The sika deer eventually escaped James Island and the population grew over time. “They were expanding their population at a time when there were very little white-tails in that area. It was during the time when there was over-exploitation of white-tails and their numbers were really low. One theory is that the sika deer established themselves before the white-tail populations rebounded and prevented them from re-occupying some areas,” said Bowman. In addition to possibly competing with other herbivores and pushing white-tailed deer out of their natural habitats, sika deer can also cause crop damage. “There are complaints in Dorchester County about crop damage from them but the bigger concern from my perspective is ecologically. They’re not supposed to be here and if they are competing with white-tails, that’s a problem,” said Bowman. “What I saw when we did some population estimation work several years back before this project, the white-tail numbers were high in some areas and so were the sika deer numbers. So you compounded crop damage. You almost doubled the amount of deer on the landscape.” The differences between white-tailed deer and sika deer are mostly digestive, as sika are more grazers — able to eat a wider array of food than the white-tailed deer, who have a narrower range of things they can eat, which Bowman said makes them ripe for competition. This ability to eat a wider array of foods is apparent in the sika deer’s range of habitats. In Maryland, they are primarily found in wetland areas, while on Yakushima Island, they are found in the mountains. “I think it could be because they can exploit some of those salt water plants that the white-tails can’t eat. That might be why they’re using those habitats more, whereas white-tails only use those habitats for bedding areas, they don’t use them for foraging. The sika may have expanded into some of those and that might be why they have such a stronghold in the area,” said Bowman. The population in Maryland is the only free range population of sika deer in the United States that people are allowed to hunt and because of this, Bowman said that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources wants to maintain the populations of the deer but limit their spread. “This is a perfect example of a biological invasion where we’re not going to get rid of the species because of people — there’s an industry out there that protects them and doesn’t want them to go away, and you see it in a lot of species. Catfish in the [Chesapeake] bay, for instance. They’re not supposed to be there but there’s a fishing industry for them now so we’re not going to try to get rid of them. We’re just going to try to reduce their numbers,” said Bowman. In addition to the help from Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Bowman said that they would not be able to do their research without the help and support from the private land owners. Article by Adam Thomas Video by Jeff Chase This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Early women faculty members reflect on time at CANR

Early women faculty members reflect on time at CANRIn the early 1980s, as at many institutions of higher education across the United States, change was taking shape in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). That change came in the form of Judy Hough-Goldstein, Lesa Griffiths, Sherry Kitto and Robin Morgan – four of the first female faculty members hired by the college – who would go on to prestigious careers at UD, some ending up as CANR department chairs and in the case of Morgan, as dean of the college.

Judy Hough-Goldstein

Hough-Goldstein, professor of entomology who will retire this summer, was the first of the four to come to UD when she was hired by the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in 1981, and she said that she was preceded by Sue Sullivan, a plant breeder who worked in the college in the 1970s. Hough-Goldstein said that it really hit home that she was the only female faculty member during her first college-wide faculty meeting. “It was definitely intimidating and some of the older faculty members and extension personnel were not used to female faculty members, but I must say that in my department, everybody was extremely supportive,” said Hough-Goldstein, who pointed out that the newer faculty members in her department had been working with women peers in graduate school and had no problems working with her at all. Hough-Goldstein, who would eventually become chair of the department from 1994-2001, and make significant strides in researching a biological control agent — a stem-boring weevil — to help fight the invasive mile-a-minute weed, said that when the other departments started hiring women faculty members, it was a big relief. “Sherry Kitto, Lesa Griffiths and Robin Morgan, once we had them coming in, after that it seemed like it was fairly rapid,” said Hough-Goldstein. In Cooperative Extension as well, Hough-Goldstein said that having Joanne Whalen, a retired integrated pest management extension specialist, already established helped her to be accepted by the farmers she had to work with. “She was a real pioneer too. Working with farmers back in the day, it was tough and I think she helped me in the farming community because they had gotten used to her, they loved her. She’s very gregarious and very easy to talk to and so that helped me a lot,” said Hough-Goldstein. Hough-Goldstein said that she is proud of receiving an Outstanding Advising and Mentoring Award from the Office of Graduate Studies for mentoring graduate students. She is also proud of helping to establish a doctorate in entomology and wildlife ecology while serving as chair of the department.

Sherry Kitto

Kitto, now retired from the department, was hired in 1984 as a horticulturist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC) to perform plant tissue culture and work with ornamentals and native plants. When she arrived in the department, Kitto, who grew up with three brothers and worked jobs previously where she was the only woman, said that she knew how to take care of herself. She found the environment was collegial and she got along with her colleagues in the department. Kitto was especially appreciative of being mentored by Al Morehart, who was serving as the department chair at the time. When the department welcomed Yan Jin, professor in PLSC, to the faculty, Kitto decided to have lunches at her house to welcome new women faculty members. “I lived right in Newark and so on a regular basis, two times a year I had a lunch so [Jin] could meet all the women on campus that I knew that I considered power people that would help her,” said Kitto. Kitto notes that the PLSC faculty is now almost a 50-50 split between men and women. In addition to the lunches, Kitto also helped to found Minorities in Agriculture and Natural Resources Related Sciences (MANRRS) on a national scale while at UD, and said she is proud of the undergraduate and graduate students that she taught. In 2007, Kitto received the E. Arthur Trabant Award for Women’s Equity. “My dream for working here is that the students I worked with would do better than I did – that they would have an easier path, that they would come out with more knowledge of life skills and come out with knowledge in the field but also how to negotiate, how to succeed, how to have a good life,” said Kitto.

Robin Morgan

Morgan was hired in 1985 and, as she came from a biological background, she had to adjust to a college focused on agriculture. “I made a transition when I came here to agriculture but also I had not done virology. I had to learn the virology and luckily I was around people who knew it really well,” said Morgan, crediting Jack Gelb, director of the Avian Biosciences Center and professor of avian virology, for helping her along the way. Morgan noted that ten years after she arrived, she and Gelb were at a conference where Gelb was giving a talk on molecular biology and she was giving a talk on testing a vaccine in chickens and she remembers feeling like the department had turned a corner. I was giving the pathology talk and Jack was giving the molecular biology talk,” said Morgan. “At that point, I felt like the department really had been able to merge those worlds [biology and agriculture] together and they were able to do it way before other groups got on board, so it was a really exciting time.” Morgan grew very interested in agriculture and eventually became associate dean in 2000, acting dean in 2001 and dean in 2002. Of her time as dean, Morgan, who was also director of Cooperative Extension for the first year of her tenure, said that she wasn’t afraid to make mistakes and that everyone was very patient and tolerant with her as she learned the ropes. She is proud of many things during her tenure as dean, notably the creation of the UDairy Creamery, for which she credits Tom Sims, who served as associate dean under Morgan and helped get the popular creamery off the ground. “Tom figured out all the details so that is something I think will endure long after either one of us are here,” said Morgan. “What I like most about it, is that it has such a life of its own. There are so many things that we build in academia that depend on us, so they don’t endure when we leave, but that won’t be the case with the creamery. It’s going to last and last. You build something that has its own legs and becomes way bigger than you ever imagined.” With regard to the hiring of more women by the college, Morgan said she knew the college had turned a corner when she could no longer immediately recollect the number of women faculty members. “There was a time when I always knew how many women were in the college. Now I can’t instantly recollect that number, and I would have to actually count them. I think as dean I remember someone asking me how many women are in the college and I said, ‘I’ll have to count them.’ That was sort of an ‘oh man, we turned a corner’ moment, when I wasn’t saying, ‘Oh, three. Here they are.’ It was a number that I couldn’t immediately remember and I’m really proud of hiring a lot them,” said Morgan.

Lesa Griffiths

In addition to Morgan, the Department of Animal and Food Sciences added Griffiths, the T.A. Baker Professor of Agriculture and Natural Resources, in 1986. Morgan called Griffiths a great colleague and one of the most gifted teachers she’s ever worked with. “A lot of the students looked to Lesa and she has taught thousands of them,” Morgan said. “She influenced so many young women. She is incredibly gifted with thinking about how to reach someone; she is a really talented teacher.” Griffiths developed the first UD study abroad program to New Zealand in 1999 and with her 2018 program, she will have taken over 250 students abroad. She went on to serve as associate provost for international programs and director of the UD Institute for Global Studies (IGS) for 10 years. “Like the others, I received a lot support from my colleagues in both the department and the Provost’s Office when I was in IGS. Judy is a wonderful role model and while Robin and I shared many experiences in our department, it is reflecting on some of our shared personal experiences during our early careers that we roll in laughter about,” said Griffiths. “Sherry remains my most influential mentor, helping me develop my network of strong women and building the confidence to use my voice on behalf of students.” Griffiths also served as associate dean for academic programs in the college for five years. As of the fall 2016, CANR has 26 female faculty members, roughly 32 percent of the faculty in the college. In addition to increases in the amount of female faculty members, CANR has 615 females enrolled as undergraduate or graduate students, out of 939 total students in 2017. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

May 23: UDairy Creamery sets block party on Market Street to celebrate new storefront

UDairy Creamery sets block party on Market Street to celebrate new storefront May 23The University of Delaware’s UDairy Creamery will host a block party on the 800 block of Market Street in Wilmington to celebrate the opening of its new UDairy Creamery Market storefront from noon-2 p.m., Tuesday, May 23. Free ice cream will be available during the two-hour window, and there will be entertainment, including an ice cream-themed poetry reading by UD Associate in Arts Program students. The downtown Wilmington location, located at 815 North Market Street, directly across the street from Wilmington’s Grand Opera House and managed by LeeAnne Ahamad, is the UDairy Creamery’s first off-campus location. Students from UD’s Associate in Arts Program will operate the new UDairy Creamery Market, making the ice cream on site from locally sourced milk, serving customers, supervising the storefront and developing the marketplace into a sustainable business. In addition to the creamery’s ice cream products, honey, wool blankets and other items produced by UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources will be available for purchase. The farm-to-table menu will include burgers, gourmet grilled cheese, salads and other items straight from the University’s organic garden. The University partnered with Wilmington-based developer Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG) to develop the project. BPG owns the site and supported a student-run feasibility study to assess the viability of a creamery marketplace. Just like its sister location in Newark, UD students will staff the UDairy Creamery Market, gaining exposure to food science and business management practices. Students will have a very short commute from their UD Associate in Arts Program courses, held both at UD’s Downtown Center, just around the corner, and on the Delaware Technical Community College campus a few blocks away. More than 400 Associate in Arts Program students combined attend classes at the two campuses in downtown Wilmington. This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Webb Farm hosts 22nd Envirothon high school competition

Delaware students to compete in state Envirothon on April 27 at CANR webb farmHigh school students from throughout the state of Delaware descended on the University of Delaware’s Webb Farm to take part in the 22nd Envirothon, a team-based outdoor academic competition. The competition challenges high school students’ knowledge and practical application of aquatic ecology, forestry, soils and land use, wildlife, air quality, special environmental topics and public speaking. This year’s special topic was “Agricultural Soil and Water Conservation Stewardship” and the students traveled from four ecostations to explore horse and sheep pastures and the Cool Run tributary, and work on their public speaking in the Webb Farm stable. The goal of Envirothon is to prepare students to be future leaders in environmentally related careers, and provide knowledge about the environment. The competition provides experience in real world situations, which fosters sound decision making, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Rick Mickowski, a conservation planner and public outreach coordinator for the New Castle Conservation District and chair of Envirothon, said the event provides students valuable hands-on learning opportunities. “This gives the students a real-life experience out in the field, putting into practice what they’ve been learning through training workshops and in school and after school activities and it gives them the opportunity to be out on a working farm to answer questions about the environment,” said Mickowski. “It gives them a taste of what it’s like to be out in the real world and interact with resource professionals that do that work for a living.” Mickowski thanked Larry Armstrong, farm manager in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Scott Hopkins, farm superintendent, and all the farm staff for preparing Webb Farm for the event. Sponsored by the Delaware Association of Conservation Districts (DACD), a voluntary, non-profit association that coordinates conservation efforts statewide to focus on natural resource issues identified by Delaware’s three local districts, the Envirothon offers students monetary awards for higher education and commendable effort. Twenty-one teams, consisting of five students each, competed to rank in one of the top four spots, which offered students more than $3,000 in college scholarships and special team awards combined. In addition, cash awards totaling approximately $2,200 were given to the top seven teams. The winning team was Charter School of Wilmington Team A, marking the school’s 18th win in the event’s 22-year history, including an unbroken winning streak since 2002. Middletown FFA finished second and Charter School of Wilmington Team B finished third. The 21 competing Envirothon teams worked hard all school year to prepare for the event. Each team identified samples, took measurements and answered questions on various topics and also had to give a seven to 10-minute oral presentation on a scenario utilizing the nine steps of conservation planning to identify resource concerns and best management practices of a cropland and poultry farming operation. Each member of the winning team earned a $500 scholarship from the Delaware Envirothon, a $100 gift card and other prizes. The winning team will also receive an award plaque for their school and will represent Delaware at the National Conservation Foundation North American Envirothon at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmittsburg, Maryland, at the end of July. The second, third and fourth place teams received more than $1,670 in special team awards and cash prizes. Prizes in the form of gift cards and ribbons were awarded to the top seven teams. The official Envirothon results were: • First place: Charter School of Wilmington, Team A – Siddharth Gangrade, Catherine Yu, Connor Sweeney, Allen Wang, and Ashley Pennington. Team advisers: Rose Lounsbury and Greg Darone. • Second place: Middletown High School FFA – William Nylander, Ariana Gaston, Joshua Housler, Timothy Mulderrig, and Sara Collins. Team adviser: Jeff Billings. • Third place: Charter School of Wilmington, Team B – Adraitha Anne, A.J. Yuan, John Garcia, Elan Tran and Pooja Kaji. Team advisers: Rose Lounsbury and Greg Darone. • Fourth place: Peach Blossom 4-H Club – Oliver Menard, Lida Gannon, Reese Yost, Leslie Webb, Maci Carter, Drew Harris (alternate) and Adam Collier (alternate). Team adviser: Elaine Webb. • Fifth place: Charter School of Wilmington, Team C – Nicole Flowerhill, Tara Lennon, Eddie Huang, Priyanka Hoskere, and Harshitha Henry. Team advisers: Rose Lounsbury and Greg Darone. • Sixth place: A.I. du Pont High School, Team Clean Coal – Jan Castro, Mackenzie Crossley, Bethany DeGrotto, Julia Szymanski, Rachel Widom, Alicia Chen (alternate) and Sophie Girke (alternative). Team adviser: Amy Huebner. •  Seventh place: MOT Charter, Mustangs Team A – Viktoria Brown, Shannon Hanggodo, Vishnusundar Somasundaram, Shachi Shah, Jalen Williams. Team adviser: Michelle Guenther. Since its inception, the Delaware Envirothon has awarded $55,000 in scholarships to 110 students. For more information about the Delaware Envirothon, visit the website or contact Rick Mickowski at 302-832-3100, ext. 8979. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Crowds gather to view agriculture, natural resources exhibits at superhero-themed Ag Day

Crowds gather to view agriculture, natural resources exhibits at superhero-themed Ag DayOne of the warmest Ag Day celebrations on record was also one of its most well attended as an estimated 7,000 visitors flocked to the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus to take in bird shows, bee demonstrations, livestock exhibits, 4-H arts and crafts, farm tours, plant sales, and much more. Mark Rieger, CANR dean, welcomed the crowd to Ag Day and said that the event is all about celebrating “food, fun and agriculture and natural resources. We really appreciate the community coming out, and we do this for you.” Rieger recognized Keith Medwid, a CANR senior who chaired the Ag Day student planning committee, and also Grace Wisser, CANR event coordinator, for the key roles they played in organizing Ag Day. Talking about the history of the event, Rieger spoke about Dave Frey, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and how he and Paul Sammelwitz, a department colleague and emeritus faculty member, started Ag Day 42 years ago. Rieger also plugged the UDairy Creamery’s new location on 815 North Market Street in downtown Wilmington, which will have a block party with free ice cream from noon-2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23, to celebrate its opening. “The reason we’re doing that is we’ve had so much success with this creamery – 250 to 300 students have worked here, we’ve probably sold over a million scoops of ice cream, and we’re going to extend the same opportunity to the students in the Associate in Arts Program in the city of Wilmington. They are University of Delaware students and we’re taking a branch of the UDairy Creamery to them,” said Rieger. This year’s Ag Day had a superhero theme, highlighting how the research and teaching efforts of the faculty and staff members at CANR are of extraordinary importance as they try to figure out ways to feed the world and protect the planet. As part of the superhero theme, the first 300 kids who attended the event were given free capes and superhero cutouts adorned the lawn in front of Townsend Hall. The entertainment stage was a big draw this year as, in addition to the band’s Frisco and Eclectic Acoustic, crowds gathered to watch a UD Swing Dance Showcase, the Agricultural College Council’s Pie in the Face fundraiser in which Rieger and other professors and staff members participated, CANR trivia, and an improv showcase courtesy of Riot Act. Another popular aspect of Ag Day was the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE) asking attendees to participate in four separate research studies. Those who took part were paid in cash for their participation or given a coupon to the UDairy Creamery for a free ice cream cone and by the end of the day CEAE had 1,529 research observations, an all-time high and up from around 750 last year. Continuing at Ag Day this year was the popular Recipe Contest, which was started in 2015 by Christy Mannering, communications specialist at CANR. The winners of the recipe contest included:
  • Stephanie Anderson – First place with Tomato Peach Bruschetta. The first place prize is a 50-pound voucher for canning tomatoes, 20-pound box of mixed vegetables, a jar of honey, an Ag Day T-shirt and UDairy Creamery items.
  • Nathan Thayer – Second place with Can’t Beet Local Burger. The second place prize is a 20-pound box of mixed vegetables, a jar of honey and an Ag Day T-shirt.
  • Karin Pleasanton – Third place with Zucchini and Lettuce Boat California Rolls. The third place prize is an Ag Day T-shirt and UDairy Creamery items.
In addition to Medwid, the 2017 Ag Day student planning committee was made of up of Kelly Holland, Julie Leznar, Andrew Mason, Michelle McEnroe, Melody Walkiewicz, Amanda Obosneko, Alexis Omar, Natalie Zelenky and Natalia Ziemecki. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Trammell looks at similarities, differences among American lawns

UD’s Trammell looks at similarities, differences among American lawnsAs cities and suburbs have sprawled across the United States, they have not only provided new housing and developments but also given rise to what researchers are calling the American residential macrosystem, a new biome encompassing urban, suburban and extra-urban lands with biological, geophysical and social components that interact with one another. Using six cities from across the United States, the University of Delaware’s Tara Trammell is part of a team of researchers from multiple universities looking at factors that contribute to stability and change in the American residential macrosystem as well as the future ecological implications at the ecosystem, city, regional and continental scales. The research is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) Macrosystems Biology Program and builds off prior work that was funded by NSF in 2012. The research includes study sites in Boston, Baltimore, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix and Los Angeles. Trammell, the John Bartram Assistant Professor of Urban Forestry in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, conducted her part of the project in Los Angeles in 2012 and will once again return to the city. She said the original project looked at the ecological homogenization of America by researching residential lawns across those six cities, which are in different ecological biomes and climates, to see how similar the residential ecosystems were becoming based on people’s preferences and behaviors. The research hypothesis was that the residential ecosystems and landscapes across the continent are more similar than the native ecosystems that they replaced, which can lead to altered ecosystem structure and function. “The original project was a collaboration between social scientists looking at the social drivers of the American residential macrosystem and ecologists studying the ecological impacts of yard management. We found evidence for ecological homogenization in plant communities, soils, and nutrient pools, yet at the same time yard management may or may not be the same,” said Trammell. This project will examine what factors, such as social drivers, are contributing to the stabilization or to changes of the residential ecosystems. “There is an interaction between biophysical drivers and social drivers together effecting the homogenization. We’re trying to understand what factors are contributing to changes in residential systems and what factors contribute to stabilizing them,” said Trammell. Some of these stabilizing factors include commercial drivers and perceived social norms or values, while agents for change include planting more wildlife supporting plants, using less fertilizer or utilizing xeriscaping — low water landscaping that is nearly devoid of plants. Social factors that contribute to the changes or stabilization in the system include how much time people put into their lawns which can be dictated by life stage and socioeconomics. “It’s not just the amount of resources you can put into the yard but your time. When I was in LA conducting homeowner interviews, several people who recently retired had plans for their yard. They were finally going to have time for landscaping versus the people who may have been working full-time with families,” said Trammell. In addition to life stage and economic considerations, there are top down regulations that need to be taken into account as well. In Los Angeles, for example, with water use and water availability issues, regulations come into play that change people’s behavior. The research will look at the ecological implications for these potential changes and stabilizations, focusing on how management influences hydrology, nutrient cycling and biodiversity. “People are instituting hydrologic efficient aspects in their lawns, such as rain gardens or xeriscaping in the arid climates. How are these changes in yard management effecting ecological function? We’re looking to see if nutrient use efficiency, water use efficiency and wildlife supporting management behaviors in your yard effect biodiversity at different trophic levels and nutrient retention or runoff,” said Trammell. The first project measured plant communities, soils and microclimate, while this time around the researchers are going to include higher trophic levels and water and energy balance. “We’re adding insect and bird biodiversity to the study to see if yards with greater plant biodiversity support higher trophic levels,” said Trammell. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources opens second high tunnel greenhouse

UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources opens second high tunnel greenhouseRepresentatives from the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Cooperative Extension and Rimol Greenhouse Systems held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, April 13, to officially open a new high tunnel greenhouse donated to the University by the company. The high tunnel, a state-of-the-art growing space greenhouse designed with practicality, sustainability and year-round opportunities for education in mind, is the second one on UD’s CANR campus provided by Rimol and will double the amount of indoor growing space available to offer hands-on learning opportunities and fresh produce to both students and the Delaware community. CANR Dean Mark Rieger began the ceremony by thanking Rimol and highlighting how Mike Popovich, farm manager at CANR, uses the high tunnel to offer a farm-to-chef model with some of the produce grown on the farm going to local Delaware restaurants. Rieger also spoke about how he teaches a class in the high tunnel, which is a big benefit as the growing season doesn’t always coincide with the school semesters. “The only way that we could do that is by having some kind of protected cultivation because our students are here in the fall and the spring; they’re really not here in the summer when we could do it outside. Last fall for example we were in the high tunnel growing broccoli, cauliflower and kale all the way through to Thanksgiving and it wouldn’t have been possible without that,” said Rieger. “I’m personally benefiting from this, the college is benefiting from this, and the state of Delaware will benefit as well from the engagement and the kinds of demonstrations that we’re going to be doing out of these tunnels.” Rieger also thanked the donors who help fund student interns who get hands-on experience growing food in the high tunnels and on the farm. Bob Rimol, owner of Rimol Greenhouse Systems, said that he has fond memories of Delaware and highlighted the importance of partnerships between private and public sector institutions. “When Mark and I started talking about this opportunity, I saw the enthusiasm with Mark and with Mike and we know what Delaware is capable of doing, and I’ve always been a big believer in supporting educational institutions,” Rimol said. “We’re all focused on these two high tunnels today but it just doesn’t stop here. We want to support you all the time in educational workshops. This is a great opportunity for you as educators to help growers, help students, help the whole industry that we’re trying to make better.” Rimol added, “Eating right starts with fresh produce. This is an example of locally grown, healthy fresh produce, and when you can teach more and more people on how to do it — whether it’s urban agriculture or the family farm — we’re all going to benefit.” Michelle Rodgers, associate dean and director of Cooperative Extension, thanked Rimol for the donation and highlighted how the high tunnel will enable extension agents to offer more courses that will benefit the community. “This is a Cooperative Extension dream to have an opportunity for real life, hands-on experience. Extension is really into experiential learning and putting research we’re generating into the hands of the people who are going to use it,” said Rodgers. Rodgers highlighted how Carrie Murphy, agriculture program leader, had already used the high tunnels for a beginning farmer class. The class brought together a diverse group of growers with varying levels of experience and allowed for networking opportunities among the participants, who shared their experiences and learned from one another inside the high tunnel. “We have a lot of interest, particularly in this county, around urban agriculture and what we can do to expand and work in the area of food security and local food needs, and being able to help people to know different ways that they can do that,” said Rodgers, adding it will be beneficial “having them come here, whether it’s kids learning about where their food comes from or adults learning to use local resources to produce food for people in the communities.” Rodgers also talked about how the high tunnel will allow extension to teach about urban gardening and urban food production, as well as to expand on already existing workshops for industry members and farmers. “We can do some more things concerning production in terms of soil health and also the latest research around high tunnels that we can share and bring to Delaware for agricultural production. We are very enthusiastic about what we think we can do and how this really enriches our opportunity to partner with other organizations and reach out,” said Rodgers. The event featured UDairy Creamery ice cream and was catered by Grain Craft Bar and Kitchen. Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Wenbo Fan and Christy Mannering This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

University’s Ag Day solidifies entertainment lineup

University’s Ag Day solidifies entertainment lineupThe University of Delaware’s annual Ag Day event invites community and collegiate organizations to educate over 8,000 visitors on the agriculture and natural resources industry. Entering its 42nd year on Saturday, April 29, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., the student-run event is working to attract more attention to the stage with a diverse list of performers. “This is a chance to bring life to our stage on Ag Day,” said Nat Ziemecki, a senior majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences who is serving as this year’s Ag Day entertainment chair. “It’s an opportunity to draw in people to the entertainment portion of the event — something that may not have been as popular in years past.” Riot Act and Swing Dance Club at UD, Frisco, WVUD and Eclectic Acoustic will be the featured performers on April 29. Riot Act is one of the improvisational comedy groups at UD. Although performances are typically long-form, play-like narratives, they plan to use Ag Day as an opportunity to involve the audience with shorter skits. Declan McLaughlin, senior and three-year improv veteran of Riot Act, said he is comfortable performing in front of large crowds but that Ag Day will be a new atmosphere. “The group is really excited to have a full hour block because normally we get about 10 minutes and it’s difficult to get through all the material with the time limit placed on us,” McLaughlin said. “This is an opportunity to try some stuff we normally wouldn’t have the freedom to try out.” The Swing Dance Club at UD, another first-time Ag Day performer, will bring traditional swing dance to beginners and experts alike. The group travels to Baltimore and Philadelphia for performances in ballrooms, outdoor venues and also hosts jazz social events on campus. For Ag Day, the dancers will perform their own pieces and hope to teach audience members a few moves as well. Originating from Newark, Frisco’s indie rock band is comprised of four male musicians. Frisco is no stranger to the Ag Day stage, as they have performed at this event last year. Frisco plans to cover songs in addition to playing new, original material. WVUD, “the voice of the University of Delaware,” brings non-commercial, educational radio programming to its listeners. WVUD is operated by staff, students and community members who bring various musical interests to the table for people of all ages to enjoy. The Eclectic Acoustic duo, Ruthie Toole and Jack Bartley, cover popular 1970s and ’80s songs at coffeehouses and country clubs in the Newark area. The Ag Day stage will be a new performance venue for the duo. The entertainment line-up is as follows: • 10-11 a.m., WVUD DJ • 11:15-11:45 a.m., UD Swing Dance Showcase • Noon, Dean’s welcome • 12:15 p.m., recipe contest announcement • 12:30 p.m., “Pie in the Face” Ag College Council fundraiser • 12:45 p.m., Play to Win – UD trivia for prizes • 1-2 p.m., Frisco • 2-3 p.m., Riot Act improv troupe • 3-4 p.m., Eclectic Acoustic “I am grateful to be part of the revitalization of the entertainment programming,” Ziemecki said. “My first year on the Ag Day planning committee has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see it come together.” Ag Day is a full day of family fun and brings in thousands of people from neighboring towns of Newark to enjoy all aspects of the event in addition to entertainment including botany, horticulture, animal science, entomology, various demonstrations and local eateries. Article by Michelle McEnroe This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Elena Delle Donne designs shelving for UD’s tuk tuk mobile lab

Elena Delle Donne designs shelving for UD’s tuk tuk mobile labIn its first year of operation, the University of Delaware Center for Experimental and Applied Economics’ tuk tuk mobile laboratory had been doing a great job of drawing people in to participate in the center’s research. There was just one problem – it lacked the appropriate amount of display space to show off the materials, such as fresh produce or oysters, associated with the various studies being run out of the vehicle. Because of this, Kent Messer, the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment, director of the CEAE in the University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), reached out to Blue Hen alumna and current WNBA star Elena Delle Donne to help design shelving for the experimental laboratory. Delle Donne started her woodworking company DelleDonneDesigns with Amanda Clifton and Megan Gainey after getting positive feedback from one of the coffee tables that they designed and posted on Instagram. “When I saw tables made by Elena, Amanda, and Megan, I thought they were creative and beautiful.  We needed some shelves that would make for an attractive display. I’m also a big fan of women’s basketball and have been following Elena for years when she played in high school in Wilmington, and then went on to star at UD, in the WBNA, and with the US gold medal winning team,” said Messer. Delle Donne said the shelves in UD tuk tuk are made out of pine and were wood-glued together to make them sturdy. They also mitered the edges and put a border on the shelves. “It was pretty simple. Once you get the wood all you have to do is really sand it, stain it and then miter the border – that’s what probably takes the longest,” said Delle Donne. As for her impressions of the tuk tuk, Delle Donne said that she had never seen one before and had to Google it before arriving on campus to meet Messer, members of the CEAE lab and the tuk tuk itself. “This is my first time seeing it. I love it. It’s really cool. I like the UD colors, and the shelves look nice in there. It’s always great when I can do anything to help out the University. It was exciting for us to put together and it’s exciting whenever UD reaches out,” said Delle Donne.

Prior to the shelves

Before the installation of the shelves, the tuk tuk used makeshift items such as an old television stand or baskets stacked on top of one another to display items. To support the new shelves, designer Nick Valinski created an aluminum structure that can be shifted around, change angles or transform to match the current needs and goals of the researchers. Maddi Valinski, lab manager for CEAE and program administrator for CBEAR, said the shelves will be a huge help in setting up the tuk tuk for experiments. “This will make it so setting up a display in the tuk tuk is just plug in and play essentially. The shelves are flexible — they can be tilted on different angles if we need them to. They can fold completely down or we can take them out entirely if need be for a particular experiment set up. There’s a lot of different flexibility with it, which will provide a benefit to us in that it saves time and it looks more professional and approachable,” said Valinski.

Year in review

It’s been a busy year for the tuk tuk, which was unveiled last year at Ag Day. It has traveled everywhere around Delaware from Newark to the First State National Historic Park to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. It also has traveled outside the state including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Ag Outlook Forum in Arlington, Virginia, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia. Not only has Olympic gold medal winner and WNBA MVP Delle Donne gotten behind the wheel but so have dignitaries such as Gov. John Carney, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons and even the University’s mascot, YoUDee. “The response to the tuk tuk has exceeded even my wildest hopes. It has not only helped us recruit a more representative sample of the public for our research but has also been a fun way of showcasing the innovative and important work we are doing at UD. Who knows where it will go in its second year,” said Messer.
Article by Adam Thomas
Photo by Evan Krape
This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Entomology Club educates public on bug benefits at insect expo

Entomology Club educates public on bug benefits at insect expoFour University of Delaware undergraduate students in the Entomology Club headed to Newport, Rhode Island, to teach visitors about the many benefits of insects and dispel some of the negative notions associated with the creatures as part of the Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America’s “It’s a Bugs World” insect expo, which was held March 19 in the atrium of the Newport Marriott as part of the society’s 88th annual meeting. Rebecca Robertson, a junior double majoring in insect ecology and conservation and wildlife ecology and conservation who is also the president of the Entomology Club, said that the group has a standard group of insects that they bring to outreach events. “We brought a couple different species of tarantulas and a few scorpions. For the tarantulas, we have one that’s an Arizona blonde and we named her Debbie, after Debbie [Harry] from Blondie, and then we have a scorpion whose name is Dwayne the Flat Rock Scorpion kind of like Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. We try to make our names familiar and friendly because it helps get rid of that initial fear for kids if they sound cute,” said Robertson. At a lot of these outreach events, Robertson said it is usually the parents who have pre-conceived notions about the bugs and the children who tend to be more open-minded. “I personally like talking to the kids more because the parents are actually the ones who are afraid and they’ll keep their kids from getting close and interacting with the insects. You have to break through the parents first before you can actually talk to the kids. The parents are usually the ones who learn to be afraid so it’s harder to break them out of it whereas kids are just learning to be afraid so you can turn that around a lot faster,” said Robertson. Getting children on board with insects at an early age is crucial to dispel many of the myths that surround creatures such as spiders and tarantulas. “A lot of the fear that we have with insects, we learn to be afraid from media because everyone portrays creatures like spiders as terrible or portrays insects as scary and bad and that goes hand in hand with the fact that we’re not educated about them,” said Robertson. “Our big passion is making sure children are educated about what they’re looking at so they won’t be afraid. They’ll understand that some insects and some spiders are beneficial and predatory and they’ll get rid of pest insects and help balance our ecosystem and realize they’re an important part of our natural world.” The love for bugs and entomology was instilled in Robertson herself at a young age when her uncle, who is a botanist, introduced her to the idea of studying insects. “I decided at that point in my life I was going to become an entomologist no matter what. I have always been interested in insects. I think a lot of kids are really passionate about insects and I just never outgrew that,” said Robertson. For those interested in learning more about or joining the Entomology Club, contact Robertson at Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Hannah Clipp receives NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Hannah Clipp receives NSF FellowshipThe University of Delaware’s Hannah Clipp was one of a dozen UD students (undergraduate and graduate) and alumni to have won National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships as the prestigious competition marks its 65th year. Fourteen others received honorable mention designations. The awards — for which more than 13,000 applicants competed this year — include three years of funding at $34,000 per year, plus $12,000 in cost-of-education allowances to the school for study leading to a master’s or doctoral degree in science and engineering. The total of these awards is almost $1.4 million — a significant boost for the students and their research. Clipp, a Master’s level student studying bird migration, stopover ecology, and bird conservation in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, said that she had been an honorable mention the previous year and that it was an amazing feeling to receive the fellowship this year. Working with Jeff Buler, associate professor of wildlife ecology, in Buler’s Aeroecology Lab, Clipp said that she is specifically using weather surveillance radar to look at stopover sites along the Gulf Coast, where birds rest and feed during migration. “Without available stopover sites, birds’ migration could be disrupted and they could die. We’re looking at habitat right along the Gulf Coast, which is critical for birds that have just undergone the 18 to 24-hour nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico during spring migration, but there’s substantial coastal development and urbanization, so it’s particularly important to protect stopover sites in this region. Part of my research is identifying and mapping where stopover habitat is located and looking to see how wind and weather affect where migrants are ending up so that we can predict where most birds are passing through and protect those areas. My research provides information that will help to prioritize conservation efforts,” said Clipp. Having first been exposed to bird research during an NSF-funded research experience for undergraduates program at Kansas State University where she investigated the effects of different management strategies on grassland songbird territory sizes, Clipp continued her research pursuits by studying waterbirds at created wetlands in West Virginia while an undergraduate at West Virginia University. As for how she ended up at UD, Clipp said she was looking for wildlife graduate programs, saw the project she is currently working on being advertised, and reached out to meet with Buler. “This was one of the projects that drew my attention, so I reached out to Jeff and got to visit UD. I met with him, learned about his research, and then decided that it was a good fit,” said Clipp. Buler said that Clipp has been a “great addition to the Aeroecology Program. Her motivation, dedication, and unwavering enthusiasm for her work are impressive. She will make important scientific contributions to our knowledge of bird migration around the Gulf of Mexico that will lead to more effective conservation efforts for populations of migratory birds.” With regards to her love of birds, Clipp said that she likes the fact that birds are everywhere. “With mammals, unless it’s a really common species like white-tailed deer, you often have to go looking for them and they’re hard to find, but birds are everywhere. People love them. I love them,” said Clipp. “I am reminded every day that the research I’m doing has real world applications and can be used to help conserve bird populations.” Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan

UD alumna Criztal Hernandez finds success with Produce Marketing Association

UD alumna Criztal Hernandez finds success with Produce Marketing AssociationWith grandparents who farmed in Mexico and parents who farmed in Sussex County, it only made sense that one day, University of Delaware alumna Criztal Hernandez would end up in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). Hernandez, who graduated in 2012 with a degree in food and agribusiness marketing and management (FABM) from CANR’s Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC), said that her passion for agriculture was instilled at a young age. “My grandparents had always done a lot of farming back in Mexico, and when we came to the United States in 1990, my parents started working in the fields picking tomatoes, strawberries, watermelons, you name it. Pretty much anything you could grow in southern Delaware,” said Hernandez. Originally an accounting and finance major, Hernandez said that she transitioned over to FABM after meeting Steven Hastings, professor and associate chair of APEC, who eventually became her adviser. “Dr. Hastings successfully helped me transition from a two-year plan into a four-year plan. One of the reasons I ended up in CANR was because of a course I took with Dr. Hastings. I enjoyed the material and realized that there was a lot of opportunity for me in the agribusiness sector. I would say that thanks to him, that’s why I ended up in the produce industry,” Hernandez said. Not even a month after she graduated, Hernandez landed her first job as a junior marketing operations manager for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA). Now a marketing strategy manager, Hernandez said that her work focuses on developing marketing campaign plans and associated strategic positioning and messaging that supports PMA and the Center for Growing Talent by PMA. “I have a team that supports pre-campaign analysis, based off of that I help draft the marketing action plans and oversee the execution for specific programs and events,” she said. As the first person to graduate college on either side of her family, Hernandez said that she is immensely proud of her education. “Coming from both mom and dad being of Mexican descent, it’s something that I am very proud of. Everyone from both of my families are still in Mexico, so that’s a huge accomplishment for anyone growing up in a different country. I am blessed to have had the support along the way,” she said. Having worked at the UDairy Creamery and as an usher at the Bob Carpenter Center as an undergrad, Hernandez singled out her boss, Sylvester “Vest” Johnson, for being a huge help throughout her college journey. She also said that for other first generation students out there, her advice is to always look to higher education for life changes and future career success. “I always talk to my Hispanic community and encourage them not to sit and wait for opportunities. College should always be the option. That’s one of the very first things that I tell someone when I’m mentoring or when they come to me for advice,” said Hernandez. “It’s okay not to know what you want to do as long as you’re working your way toward getting your foot into a college. Once you’re actually there, then you can find out what you’re interested in and what you’re passionate about.” Hernandez said that she is grateful for her college experience that helped her discover a career in the agriculture industry. “For me, I found my passion as I went along. For some, obviously, it’s not going to be as easy, but as long as you have that strive and continue to search and to want more, to ask questions and find the right people, I think that will be key for anyone’s success,” she said. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Botanic Gardens celebrates 25 years of spring plant sale

UD Botanic Gardens celebrates 25 years of spring plant saleThe University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) will celebrate the 25th anniversary of its annual spring plant sale, offering up a wide array of trees, shrubs, perennials and tropical/tenders, as well as a great selection of tomatoes and sweet and hot peppers. In each of the past 25 years, the UDBG spring plant sale has explored a featured woody plant group that has included popular species and cultivars as well as unusual and rare variations. For its silver anniversary sale, UDBG reflects on a quarter century of great plant groups that make it easier for the home gardener to compare and contrast a plant’s merits, gaining a greater understanding of how they vary and how to choose plants for the garden. The sale kicks off Wednesday, April 26, with the UDBG patron reception from 4:30-6 p.m., and Members’ Day is scheduled Thursday, April 27, from 3-6 p.m. The sale is open to the public on Friday, April 28, from 3-6 p.m., and Saturday, April 29, from 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., which coincides with Ag Day. The sale, held on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus on South College Avenue, raises funding for graduate students and interns for the gardens, as well the operating budget. It also serves as an educational opportunity for the whole UD community, offering plants that the general public might not necessarily be familiar with, while having knowledgeable staff and volunteers available to answer questions.

Greatest hits

Since 1994, the sale has had a featured woody plant, and in 2016, a featured herbaceous plant was added. This year will be a cumulative “greatest hits” of plant sales past, from Abelia to Viburnum. Each plant sale is also commemorated with a colorful T-shirt, and most of the featured plants have been illustrated and printed onto those shirts, with shirts from past years displayed behind the cashiers’ table at the plant sale as an ode to the longevity of the sale. John Frett, professor of landscape horticulture in CANR and director of the UDBG, said that it is interesting to see how some of the plants have changed over the years. Vacciniums (blueberries and cranberries), for instance, have new cultivars and selections that weren’t around when they were first featured in 2003. “We can take the Vacciniums from back in 2003, but also add onto them and build on the selection,” said Frett.

Growing garden

The spring sale, which draws thousands of visitors to the UDBG, has come a long way in its 25-year history. When it began, Frett said that it wasn’t even called the “plant sale,” and he was just handing out plants from the back of his truck in an attempt to raise funds for the garden. The first year, I think I gave them away, and then I think there was a year or two where I had 100 of one thing and sold them for a dollar a piece. It was very, very small. I can’t remember what really kicked it into gear, but after the first year, it’s increased ever since,” he said. While the first year had a plant list and the third one evolved to a booklet of plants, the plant sale now has a color catalog that is available in a hard copy exclusively to UDBG Friends and is available online for anyone to peruse or print at home. The catalogue provides plant information and images and has a strong educational component in addition to raising funds to support the gardens. Much like the catalog, the UDBG itself has evolved, now encompassing 15 acres featuring 3,000 species and cultivars of perennials, shrubs and trees, where plant and wildlife-related studies are pursued through experiential learning. Originally a collection of plants used mainly for plant identification classes, it now includes an ecological component with the introduction of the Lepidoptera Trail and the Wetland Gardens, as well as demonstration gardens. “The garden’s role in course work has increased dramatically. We’re supporting over 35 courses right now — many within the college, but several from across the University,” said Frett. “The way the garden is used has also changed and the garden’s use in research has increased.” Frett said UDBG’s primary goals are serving and supporting the needs of the University, as well as educating and inspiring the public. They are the gardens of the University of Delaware, first and foremost. Any interaction and visitation is strongly encouraged,” said Frett.

UD Botanic Gardens celebrates 25 years of spring plant saleFeatured plants

The plants featured at the plant sale include those grown by UDBG, often from propagating unusual plants in the gardens’ extensive collection, and others brought in from nurseries across the United States. Frett is careful to select plants that aren’t widely available at box stores, and he also strives to obtain plants that won’t compete with those available at surrounding nurseries. Valann Budischak, the gardens’ volunteer and education coordinator, said that while the herbaceous plants are a bit easier to grow to feature at the plant sale, having a featured woody plant is a complex process that can require years of preparation. “(Frett) is thinking several years out as far as what would be the featured plant…they come from far and wide,” said Budischak.

‘Plant Geek Party’

One of the things that keeps the plant sale growing and thriving year to year is the effort put forth by UDBG volunteers. “We have 80-some volunteers that help pull the sale off and that’s just during the actual sale hours. That doesn’t include the many volunteers that help prep and pot throughout the year. Really, they’re the blood, sweat and tears behind the whole thing,” said Budischak. Budischak said that it’s great to see the volunteers who are from diverse backgrounds and age ranges interact with one another. “I looked out this morning and saw a senior and a freshman interacting with two retirees, one of whom was a UD librarian – just talking about anything and everything. It’s really neat to see those relationships form,” said Budischak. Donna Lee Gerst, publicity and plant sale assistant at the UDBG, added that the volunteers are a great pipeline and knowledge source. “We’ve had several student volunteers who continue to come back even though they’ve moved on from the University. It’s a tribute to the program that Valann runs, that they want to come back and hang with this group of people. We have Master Gardeners in the volunteer group that have been gardening for 50 years, and there’s an awful lot of knowledge in these folks,” said Gerst. As for her favorite part about the plant sale, Budischak said that it is great to reconnect with old friends as the sale attracts many repeat customers—from students who bought their first plant for their dorm window freshman year and return throughout their UD career, to professionals from across the region who know the diversity, quality and, often times, rarity of the plants available. “It really is a ‘plant geek’ party. We try to make every experience here beneficial: You learn something, you have a good time, you make some friends and you work hard. The plant sale is a great time. We are blessed to have many local horticultural organizations whose staff jumps in and helps the UDBG by lending their expertise for the sale,” said Budischak. Become a UDBG Friend online to enjoy Members’ Day shopping and other exclusive member benefits.
 Article by Adam Thomas
Photos by Wenbo Fan and Valann Budischak
This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researchers discover tree trunks act as methane source in upland forests

canr plant soil sciences post doc Dan Warner field work study at watershedA new study from the University of Delaware is one of the first in the world to show that tree trunks in upland forests actually emit methane rather than store it, representing a new, previously unaccounted source of this powerful greenhouse gas. Methane is about 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide, with some estimates as high as 33 times stronger due to its effects when it is in the atmosphere. Because of methane’s global warming potential, identifying the sources and “sinks” or storehouses of this greenhouse gas is critical for measuring and understanding its implications across ecosystems. Upland forest soils usually take up and store methane, but this effect can be counteracted by methane emissions from tree trunks, the research team from UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources found. Their work is published in the scientific journal Ecosystems. “We believe our work can help fill in some gaps in methane budgets and environmental processes in global ecosystem models,” said the study’s leader, Rodrigo Vargas, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Shreeram Inamdar, professor of watershed hydrology and biogeochemistry, is co-investigator on the project with Vargas, and doctoral student Daniel Warner is the lead author of the paper. The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, with additional support from Delaware’s Federal Research and Development Matching Grant Program.

Maryland study site

In a 30-acre area of upland forest at Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area in nearby Cecil County, Maryland, the researchers tested a cluster of trees, soil and coarse woody debris (CWD)—dead wood lying on the forest floor in various stages of decomposition—to measure fluxes of methane and carbon dioxide. The researchers used a state-of-the-art greenhouse gas analyzer based on laser absorption technology, called Off-Axis Integrated Cavity Output Spectroscopy (OA-ICOS), which looks similar to a proton pack from the movie “Ghostbusters.” Warner visited the site over the course of one growing season, April to December, and measured the carbon dioxide and methane fluxes of the soil, tree trunks and CWD to determine whether those three components were sources or sinks of these greenhouse gases.

Soils and CWD fluxes

In terms of carbon dioxide, research on the fluxes of tree trunks, known as stem respiration, and soil, known as soil respiration, has been done for decades, but research to determine the importance of carbon fluxes with regard to CWD still lags behind. For methane, however, it’s a different story. While studies have been done on methane fluxes in connection to soils, which usually consume the methane and are considered methane sinks, there are very few that deal with CWD and tree trunks in upland soils. “What research has been done is generally lab incubations of wood where they measure how much methane is released over time. What we’ve found in this study is that some coarse woody debris acts kind of like the soil and consumes methane while other pieces of coarse woody debris emit small amounts of methane, which is also what we saw with living tree trunks,” said Warner. To understand the differences between the actions of the CWD, Warner and colleagues found that fresher CWD has a positive methane flux, which is similar to how a living tree behaves. “When a tree falls over, it’s still functionally the same in terms of methane emissions. Over time, as it decays, my theory is that it gets colonized by soil bacteria that consume methane and it shifts to behave more like the soil, resulting in a methane sink,” said Warner. The researchers also found that CWD had a high rate of variability when it came to methane emissions. “As it decays it becomes a lot more variable. Some of the super-decayed wood was still releasing methane but a lot of it was consuming methane,” said Warner. “If you have a CWD pool with less diversity regarding the degree of decomposition, you can expect it to play a more uniform role in terms of methane emissions or sinks.”

Tree trunks and methane fluxes

While tree trunks have been known to release carbon dioxide, this research showed that they were also releasing methane. “The tree trunks constantly have low but detectable emissions of methane. Soils are providing an environmental service of sequestering this potent greenhouse gas, but the trunks are releasing methane equivalent to 4 percent of what could be captured by CWD and soils at the ecosystem scale,” said Vargas. Overall, the tree trunks acted as a source of carbon dioxide and as a small source of methane, but the magnitude of gases emitted varied with the species. Tulip poplar was one species that released a lot of methane and carbon dioxide, whereas beech trees released the most methane within the forest but emitted very little carbon dioxide. “It might be some species-specific trait that’s controlling the flux,” said Warner.

Temperature threshold

Temperature also played a key role in regulating the magnitude of the fluxes. “Methane in soils seem to follow a temperature gradient where higher temperatures are related to higher uptake of methane but that’s not necessarily the case for CWD or for tree trunks,” said Vargas. Warner said it’s hard to develop a temperature relationship with methane because there are two processes that oppose each other. “You have things in the soil producing methane—known as methanogenesis—things consuming it—known as methanotrophy—and so as you warm up, it’s more kind of like a shot gun where the magnitudes of methane scatter out more as it gets warmer; suggesting that other factors beyond temperature regulate methane emissions,” said Warner. They found that beyond a threshold of 17 degrees Celsius for soil temperature, the variability of methane consumption expands dramatically. “Under 17 degrees, temperature is a key driver of methane flux but above 17 degrees, there are other drivers that will influence methane production,” said Vargas.

Soil hot spots

As for where the methane originated, Warner said it’s still a science frontier, but this study provides enough clues to give the researchers some theories. The first one is that methane is produced in hot spots in the soil. “By hot spot, we mean a place where conditions are conducive to methane production and then that methane is sucked up by the tree roots, transported through its vascular system and released out of its trunk,” said Warner. “We know that happens in wetlands but in uplands, maybe it happens in one specific spot and nowhere else.” The other mechanism that could be causing methane fluxes from trunks is internal rotting or infection inside the tree, which produces an environment where methanogenic bacteria can survive and then methane diffuses out of the tree. “At this moment, the mechanisms of methane production in upland forests are not clear. Methane can be either transported from the soils upward inside the stem and diffused to the atmosphere or produced inside the stem by fungi or archaea—single-celled microorganisms,” said Vargas.

Next steps

Both Warner and Vargas agreed that the next steps should be to test the generality of these observations across different forests, and identify the mechanisms of methane production and transport in tree trunks. Finally, they suggest that global and ecosystem models should take into account methane produced from tree trunks as a new source of methane to the atmosphere. “When people develop ecosystem to global scale methane budgets, there’s always a chunk in which it is uncertain from where that methane is coming. Methane emissions by vegetation and tree trunks are seen as a newly-considered source that might bring that budget closer in to our estimates. It’s good to keep chipping away at that,” said Warner. This article can also be viewed on UDaily. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan Video by Jeff Chase

ANFS Envision program offers undergrad research opportunities

UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources offers undergrad research opportunitiesThe University of Delaware’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) will launch a three-year undergraduate research experience funded through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) program known as Envision, which is focused on developing the next generation of agricultural scientists. Entitled “Undergraduate Research and Education Exploring One Health: Protecting our food supply, animal health, and the environment,” the project will look to address the disparity of underrepresented individuals of the population in agricultural sciences, specifically as this applies to the One Health initiative connecting safe food production to animal health and to stewardship of the environment. Partnering with the Lincoln and Delaware State Universities, both historically black colleges and universities, 10 undergraduates will work with project investigators for 10 weeks over the summer, from June through mid-August, to develop their own hypothesis-based research projects, document the process using video production training and present their work to both public and scientific audiences. In addition, UD Cooperative Extension will provide an Extension Scholar for the summer to aid in the implementation of the program. The summer includes training in video equipment, editing and storytelling, industry trips, laboratory and safety training, and participation in camaraderie-building activities. Mark Parcells, professor of avian molecular virology in ANFS and the lead project investigator, said, “The ANFS faculty has always had a very strong commitment to undergraduate research, and I was asked to help organize this program and grant proposal, but I am only one of 19 faculty and staff involved in this endeavor. This program involves researchers across many disciplines and provides a great opportunity for students to develop into scientists, not just work in a laboratory or in a field study. As a first-generation college student myself, I see where education can lead and the opportunities it can provide, and now, we as educators and researchers have a duty to provide these opportunities as broadly and inclusively as possible.” For those interested in learning more or registering for the program, visit the Envision website. Funding for Envision is part of a larger effort from the USDA that recently awarded more than $5 million in grants for fellowship opportunities for undergraduate students at colleges and universities. This ANFS program is being funded under grant award #2017-67032-26009 for $280,518. These awards are made through NIFA’s Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduate (REEU) Fellowships program, part of the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Education and Literacy Initiative. The REEU Fellowships program promotes research and extension experiential learning for undergraduates to help them enter the agriculture workforce with skills in food, agriculture, natural resources and the human sciences (FANH). Projects are designed to provide hands-on experience at land-grant and non-land-grant universities and USDA facilities, training to acquire laboratory research and extension skills, mentoring experiences and participation in extension projects or programs that deliver science-based knowledge and informal educational programs. This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

April 7-9: Annual Lawn Mower Tune-Up

CANR to host annual community push lawn mower tune-up serviceOver the last 16 years, the University of Delaware’s Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity for agriculture and the Blue Hen Racing Club have serviced more than 8,000 lawn mowers at their annual push lawn mower tune-up. Last year, the groups serviced over 500 mowers. The lawn mower tune-up will be held once again this year on Friday and Saturday, April 7-8, at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus with pickup on Saturday and Sunday, April 8-9. The drop-off time for Friday, April 7, is 2 p.m.-8 p.m. The drop-off time for Saturday, April 8, is 8 a.m.-6 p.m. The pick-up time for Saturday, April 8 is 1 p.m.-6 p.m. for the first 300 mowers taken on Friday. The pick-up time for Sunday, April 9 is 8 a.m.-2 p.m. All mowers must be picked up by 2 p.m. on Sunday. 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 $38. 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 South College Ave., just north of the Fred Rust Ice Arena. For more information, contact Seth Furbush at or call the AGR Fraternity at (302) 519-1768. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Emmalea Ernest uses lima bean breeding program to develop disease resistant lines

UD’s Emmalea Ernest uses lima bean breeding program to develop disease resistant linesCreating a lima bean with built-in disease resistance to root knot nematodes — parasitic worms that cause crop damage — takes a lot of patience and time, requiring years of breeding and the careful identification of sources of nematode resistance. Luckily for growers in the state, University of Delaware Cooperative Extension has a lima bean breeding program under the guidance of Emmalea Ernest, who began the program in 2004 to develop new varieties of lima beans that possess disease resistance and are well adapted to Delaware’s growing conditions and production practices. Lima beans are Delaware’s most widely planted vegetable crop with approximately 14,000 acres of green baby limas for processing planted in the state each year. Fordhook and large seeded pole limas are also grown in Delaware.

Root knot nematodes

To look at nematode resistance specifically, Ernest, associate scientist in the Extension Vegetable and Fruit Program and in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, is part of a team of researchers that received a five-year, $1.5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant (SCRI). Some of those funds were used for Ernest to work with Paul Gepts from the University of California Davis to look at lima bean lines that had been successful against nematodes in that state. Ernest said that unlike the Mid-Atlantic region, where nematodes are a relatively new problem, California has a long-standing breeding program working with nematode resistance. “They have a decades-long program, since the 1940s, because nematodes are a major problem and have been a major production issue in California. Breeding for nematode resistance in lima beans has been a big focus of the California program,” said Ernest.

California lima beans

The researchers couldn’t simply take the lima beans from California with resistance and plant them in Delaware, however, as they are not suitable for production here. “We can’t just use those varieties because they are white seeded and meant for harvest at the dry stage, and all of our production is of green seeded lima beans for freezing,” said Ernest. The goal for this part of the project was to identify sources of nematode resistance that could be used in the Delaware breeding program and then to start using them. Because of the years of lima bean breeding in California, there are a lot of potential sources of resistance to root knot nematode in lima bean germplasm, which Ernest said means there are a lot of potential parents that can be used to develop resistance in Delaware lima beans. “I made crosses between the best sources of resistance from the California program and varieties that are suitable for production here,” she said.

Line screenings

Ernest screened inbred lines in 2014 and 2015, some of which were from Gepts and the California breeding program and others that were varieties that had reported nematode resistance. Those were screened in inoculated field plots at the Thurman G. Adams Agricultural Research Farm in Georgetown, and ratings were taken on galling — abnormal outgrowths of plant tissues. The researchers found that there were two different sources of resistance that held up well against the Delaware root knot nematodes that were being tested. In 2016, the researchers screened breeding populations in inoculated small plots and made selections out of the 401 planted individuals. “Those were at a stage of being either four or five generations after the cross. With lima beans, the variety that is the end product is an inbred line and so once I get to seven or eight generations of inbreeding, seven or eight generations after the cross, that is considered pretty close to an inbred line and that’s a finished variety if it’s any good,” said Ernest. Right now, the researchers are at the sixth or seventh generation and Ernest said she is “increasing seed to have plants in the field this coming summer to look at yield and commercially important seed characteristics in some of those selections that I made out of the field last year. The best lines that we identify this summer, we’ll be testing in the replicated yield trial in 2018.” Ernest said that the ultimate goal is to identify nematode resistant germplasm to develop new varieties that growers could use in Delaware, adding that the researchers are very close. “We have found some sources of resistance that work well that will give us resistance to the root knot nematodes, and we have crossed those sources of resistance with things that are adapted and have the commercial qualities that we need, like green seed, and high yields. We are pretty close to maybe having something that could become a variety that’s resistant and has green seed acceptable yield and good agronomic qualities,” she said. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Michele Walfred This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Ag Ambassadors serve as face of College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Ag Ambassadors serve as face of College of Agriculture and Natural ResourcesFor over 25 years, student volunteers known as the Ag Ambassadors in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) have served as the face of the college, leading tours and answering questions from prospective students and their families and representing the college at special events. The group is now 65 strong and has grown from its beginnings in the early 1990s when Karen Aniunas, now assistant vice president of communications and constituent relations in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at UD, started the program with around 10 or 12 volunteers. Aniunas began work at CANR as a recruiter — eventually becoming an assistant dean — and was looking for something that would set the college apart from other agricultural institutions when prospective students and their families visited. One of the strategies she used was to have visiting families meet with faculty members, and then she would lead tours of the college’s farm, greenhouses and gardens. Working closely with undergraduates for a number of years, Aniunas knew one of the best ways to deliver information was through peer to peer interaction, and she began asking students if they would like to tag along on some of the tours. “Students are looking for somebody who is mirroring themselves in some way. If I’m a high school junior or senior, I don’t know the first thing about what college is going to be like and so to see somebody sitting across the table from me or taking me around the farm who gets me and is thriving in this place I’m considering, it really helps them to see, ‘I could do this. I could be this,’” said Aniunas. With the support of John Nye, dean of the college at the time, Aniunas formalized the group of volunteers and decided to call them Ag Ambassadors. “My philosophy was always that I wanted volunteers. I didn’t want people to do this because it was a way to make money. I wanted them to do it because they were really committed to the college and they wanted to engage with prospective students,” said Aniunas. Aniunas said she is thrilled to see the program thriving and said it is as much a benefit for the college as it is for the students. “The students got such a great opportunity for building their communication skills and their leadership skills. They had a lot of exposure to skills that you need as a professional in the real world. It was a symbiotic benefit with regards to them helping us build our numbers and giving the prospective students somebody to connect with but also at the same time building professional skills within the Ag Ambassadors themselves,” said Aniunas.

Current Ag Ambassadors

Now under the guidance of Kim Yackoski, senior assistant dean in CANR, and Katie Daly, academic program manager at CANR, the program is still being run in the way it was originally envisioned, and both said that one of the favorite parts of their job is working with some of the most fun and engaged students in the college. “We are the undergraduate student services office who supports current students with advisement, but we’re also charged with recruiting students. We welcome prospective families to visit us, to take a tour of our facilities and to meet with faculty members,” said Yackoski. The undergraduate student services office has over 150 tour requests each year, which are organized by Theresa Cometa, administrative assistant in CANR, and led by the Ag Ambassadors. Students can apply to be Ag Ambassadors as early as their freshman year, and they are drawn from each of the college’s four departments and agriculture and natural resources majors. Having a diverse group of Ag Ambassadors allows prospective students to get customized tours based on their area of interest, such as touring the farm to see animals or the greenhouse to focus on plants. In addition to giving tours, the Ag Ambassadors mentor new CANR students and also represent the college at the Presidential Tailgate during Homecoming, college-wide events and award ceremonies. The current Ag Ambassadors have monthly meetings with Yackoski and Daly where there are training sessions on a broad array of professional development topics as well as updates on the college’s course offerings. “There is always something new to learn about the programs we offer and these trainings provide us an opportunity to engage with our ambassadors so that they are the best they can be in the role that they play,” said Yackoski. Daly said that there is a mentoring process built into the program where seasoned Ag Ambassadors will go on tours with newer ambassadors and give them feedback. “After the tour, in a nice peer mentor kind of way, the seasoned Ag Ambassador can give some feedback to them about what they thought they did really well or what they could improve upon in the future,” said Daly. Many current Ag Ambassadors are students who met or interacted with members of the program before they came to UD. Joseph Rea, a senior honors student majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences with minors in exercise science and medical diagnostics, said that he originally decided to come to UD after he was given a tour by an Ag Ambassador. “I loved how students represented the college so well and were able to tell so many personal stories about how the college and faculty positively shaped their college career. Now it’s come full circle, and I am the Ag Ambassador, hoping to inspire the next round of high school students to choose CANR at UD. This college has done so much for me and I am proud to represent it as an Ag Ambassador. It’s my way of giving back a small token to a program that has given so much to me,” said Rea. Jessica Beatty, a junior majoring in wildlife conservation, is currently an Ag Ambassador and said the enthusiasm she saw from the Ag Ambassadors when she visited UD as a prospective high school student is what drew her to the program. “How much they loved the program was one thing that influenced me when I visited. I try to give high school students that same enthusiasm and an honest love for what I’m doing. I’m proud to be here so I love sharing that with people and I love talking about the school,” said Beatty. Beatty said she can still remember when she first heard Ag Ambassadors speak about their experiences at CANR during Decision Days and decided at that moment that she wanted to be one. “After I was in the room with all the Ag Ambassadors, I told my parents, ‘I want to be one of those people,’ and here I am. I still talk to Katie and Kim about it to this day. It’s just one of those things that has stuck with me,” said Beatty. For more information on the program, visit the Ag Ambassadors website. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Botanic Gardens to mark anniversary plant sale with photo contest

UD Botanic Gardens to mark anniversary plant sale with photo contestSome may have thought spring’s early arrival was the perfect chance to cradle their cameras or focus their phones to take photos of the colorful onslaught of spring flowers, but this blast of winter will be a great opportunity for photographers of all levels to wander the snowy grounds of the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens for that perfect image to enter in the UDBG 25th anniversary Plant Sale Photo Contest. Submissions are due by noon on Monday, April 12. Five winners will receive gift certificates to the plant sale (April 28-29) and a plant sale T-shirt. For complete information and details on how to submit images, go to the UDBG website. The contest accepts submissions in two 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 two entries per person per category. To enjoy exclusive member benefits, join the UDBG Friends online or contact Melinda Zoehrer at The gardens are open year-round to provide ideas and inspiration, or for a quiet stroll. This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware 4-H seeks UD proposals for 2017 Youth Adult Partnership Conference

Delaware 4-H seeks UD proposals for 2017 Youth Adult Partnership ConferenceThe Delaware 4-H Program will host the 2017 Youth Adult Partnership Conference, with the theme “Ride the Wave to Healthy Living,” from Nov. 10-12 at the Atlantic Sands Hotel in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, and is seeking presentation proposals from the University of Delaware community. The weekend conference will bring together 150-200 youth and volunteers who will pair up in teams of two-to-four teens with an adult volunteer or staff member from the Northeast Region. Those teams will participate in workshops to get the latest information on healthy living and bring the ideas back to their communities for projects to improve the health of participants’ schools and communities. The conference committee is currently seeking proposals from the University community for 75-minute workshop presentations that involve active learning with a focus on Healthy Living content. The workshops will take place on Saturday, Nov. 11, with time slots available from 9-10:15 a.m., 10:30-11:45 a.m. and 2:30-3:45 p.m. The workshops will also be a way to model best practices for working in a youth/adult partnership within 4-H clubs and other organizations serving young people. Workshops can be led by members of the UD community individually or as co-presenters to teach the healthy living content and model best practices for working together. Proposals are due by Friday, March 31. For those interested in submitting a proposal, contact Betsy Morris at or call 302-831-8864 to obtain a 4-H Youth Adult Partnership proposal form. Registration materials for the conference will be available June 15 on the 4-H website. This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware Masters Gardeners take part in Water Warrior workshop

Delaware Masters Gardeners take part in Water Warrior workshopUniversity of Delaware Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardeners spent two days in February learning about the importance of clean water to the state’s environment and economy. Participants explored simple, low-cost tips for protecting and improving local water quality in their backyards and community and engaging on topics such as green infrastructure as part of a Water Warrior citizen advocacy workshop. The workshop featured presenters from UD, the Delaware Nature Society (DNS), the Delaware Water Resources Center (DWRC) and the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance, and was affiliated with the Clean Water: Delaware’s Clear Choice campaign, a statewide education and outreach effort led by DNS and focused on clean water. Many of the presenters were also part of the Clean Water Alliance, a group of diverse stakeholders that supports the Clean Water Campaign and the Water Warrior workshops. Carrie Murphy, extension agent and the lawn and garden program leader, said that a representative from DNS approached her about holding the training for Master Gardeners, saying it was a natural fit as the gardeners already get a baseline of training on how to help homeowners with water problems. “There are bigger efforts in neighborhoods to manage the water but then on your own property, and in your landscape, there are slight modifications you can make, for example reducing lawn, planting more native plants, considering a rain garden if appropriate, to more effectively manage water. This has been our focus but we’ve never had extensive training to connect these suggestions to the bigger picture, so this was a great opportunity to do this,” said Murphy. The first day of the workshop focused on sustainable landscaping, specifically how gardens relate to water management, and highlighted some of the challenges in New Castle County with regard to water management and how Master Gardeners can help people troubleshoot those issues. Sue Barton, associate professor and extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, presented on sustainable landscaping practices, such as bioswales, a landscaping element designed to concentrate or remove pollution from surface water runoff, and native plants that are appropriate for rain gardens. A DNS representative gave an overview of the Clean Water Alliance and a presentation on “Water Warrior 101: Citizen’s Guide to Clean Water.”

Individual contributions to clean water

There are a number of ways that individuals can help contribute to clean water through individual practices, which is the focus of Water Warrior training. Gardeners, in particular, have a unique relationship with water and can have an immediate impact based on the individual practices that they utilize. The second day included presentations on the value of watersheds and water in Delaware from Martha Narvaez, a policy scientist at the DWRC, located in UD’s Institute for Public Administration, and an overview of water restoration in the Brandywine-Red Clay Valley from Ellen Kohler of the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance. The DWRC is on the Clean Water Alliance steering committee and Narvaez said they have been working with DNS on their campaign, trying to attract new alliance members and sharing information about the importance of clean water. They have also been educating the public on their role in water quality, their impacts on water and the need for clean water. “We conducted an economic analysis on Delaware’s watersheds in 2012 and, using three different methods, we found watersheds contribute anywhere from $2-6.7 billion annually to the state’s economy. We felt that quantifying [this number] was important so that we could give people a better understanding of why protecting water is important,” said Narvaez. One of the biggest challenges in protecting water in Delaware and throughout the country is that water crosses state lines, so while Delawareans can address the pollution once it reaches the state, it is increasingly difficult to address the pollution at out-of-state sources. “How do you address pollution in other states when you really have no regulatory authority to do that? That’s one of the challenges with water. People have different uses downstream and you may not have control of the sources upstream so you need to work to have innovative ways to incentivize people upstream to clean up the water so the people downstream are getting clean water,” said Narvaez. As far as working with the Master Gardeners, Narvaez said she was happy to participate in the event and share the research DWRC has conducted on the importance of water resources. “I think the Master Gardeners are a perfect group to carry that through because they are the people on the ground talking to home owners and really connecting with the public and I think they can connect in a way that a lot of us can’t and so I was really happy to be able to participate,” said Narvaez. Those interested in becoming Master Gardeners or learning about Master Gardener services can call 302-831-COOP or visit the Cooperative Extension website. Those interested in learning more about the Clean Water Alliance or hosting a Water Warrior training, can contact Brenna Goggin, director of advocacy at DNS, at 302-239-2334 ext. 132 or e-mail Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researchers present findings on how to best market oysters

UD researchers present findings on how to best market oysters
Delaware Sea Grant partnered with University of Delaware’s Center for Experimental & Applied Economics to engage industry and policy stakeholders in Delaware to discuss recent research on consumer preferences for oysters.
Researchers from the University of Delaware recently hosted members of Delaware’s oyster industry to share results of studies about how to best market their products. Those studies showed that demand for their product is strong and consumers should be ready to pay good prices once the supply arrives. The results were reported at a Consumer Preferences for Delaware Oysters: An Economic Evaluation of Marketing Messages workshop held on Feb. 9 at the Cannon Laboratory on the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes. The workshop was hosted by the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE) and sponsored by Delaware Sea Grant, housed in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE). The results presented at the workshop were gathered over the past three years, when members from CEAE collected data at various locations throughout Delaware — such as the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal, at Ag Day in Newark, at 16-Mile Brewery in Georgetown, at Famous Joe’s Tavern in Wilmington, and at Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles — to gauge consumer preferences for local oysters. Kent Messer, the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment and director of CEAE, which is housed in the University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), said the researchers — specifically Tongzhe Li, post-doctoral researcher in CEAE, and Maik Kecinski, assistant professor at the University of Alberta — gained a number of good insights during the study and wanted to make sure the results were getting out to industry professionals.

Potential aquaculture

As the state does not currently have an aquaculture industry, Ed Lewandowski, the acting director for DESG’s Marine Advisory Service, said that the researchers were interested in looking at the potential for getting an oyster product into the marketplace so that when Delaware aquaculture is operational, producers can hit the ground running as well. “It’s a competitive industry. You’ve got raw bars popping up all over the place and each of them have oysters that they favor as well as clients who favor particular brands,” Lewandowski said. “A lot of the times, those brands have catchy names or they’re marketed creatively. We wanted to ensure that when we do have an inland bays oyster product ready, we can compete in that market place by positioning it with the brand, the logo, and the catchy name.” Francesca Piccone, a graduate of CEOE and current CEAE outreach coordinator, said the researchers tested the consumer response to a logo bearing the words “Inland Bays Oysters: A Southern Delaware Delicacy” underneath a picture of an oyster to see if people were willing to spend more money on oysters branded that way. They also focused on demographics to see who would pay more for oysters and what kind of information would make them more inclined to do so. “We found that local is an effective word that increased consumer demand for oysters. The consumers’ willingness to pay for oysters also changes depending on which body of water they were grown in,” said Piccone.

‘Local, local, local’

The study showed that 28 percent of locals would pay a higher price for oysters branded with the logo compared to 13 percent of tourists who would pay a higher premium. Additionally, the researchers found that consumers are willing to pay 16 percent more for oysters that are harvested locally. “Local, local, local. Couldn’t stress that enough. People put a premium on locally produced or sourced products. Consumers appreciate local shellfish, and we also found that the word ‘southern’ seemed to be important to people,” said Lewandowski. Consumers also value the smell of the oysters the most, followed by saltiness, meat size and meat color. Frequent oyster consumers prefer aquaculture oysters whereas infrequent and first-time consumers prefer wild-caught oysters. In addition, female consumers were willing to pay 33 percent less per oyster compared to male consumers and consumers overall were willing to pay higher prices for oysters that improve local water quality.

Commodities and brands

Messer said many foods, such as oysters, are moving away from being a generic commodity to a specific brand. “Recall the history of coffee in the U.S. It used to be a commodity – a couple of big companies put coffee into a big blue or red can that contained coffee from all over the world that was mixed together and sold at a low price. Now you have many coffee companies and they will sell you coffee from a specific location. It could be Sumatra, Costa Rica, or even specific farms in Mexico. These coffees are sold at a higher price,” said Messer. The same is true for oysters, as consumers are looking for oysters from specific locations. “More often than not, oysters are branded according to geographic location where they came from,” said Lewandowski. “There are Cape-May oysters, Chincoteague oysters, Bluepoint oysters out of Long Island, so using ‘Inland Bays Oysters’ definitely identifies it as a local product specific to Delaware’s inland bays.”

Importance of naming conventions

Messer said naming conventions will be important for oyster growers in Delaware to understand when they introduce their product into the market. “What kind of names could resonate to both Delaware residents to tourists? One would anticipate that tourists would be very interested in buying a local oyster. Just like you have your local beer, you have your local oyster to go along with it. It could be a good chance to not only sell Delaware oysters but get a higher price for this product because now it’s a branded name and it’s something that you can’t get elsewhere,” said Messer. Messer stressed that getting information that can benefit the Delaware oyster aquaculture is of the utmost importance for an institution like the University of Delaware. “It’s fundamental to what we do. Public money paid for our research and this has public benefits for getting the oyster industry going, and it could improve water quality in our own state plus create jobs,” said Messer. “You can’t get that in many other contexts. I feel it’s imperative upon researchers to take the extra step to engage with their constituencies to share those results and I was happy to do it.” Additional funding and support for the research and the workshop was provided by the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO), Ed Kee and the Delaware Department of Agriculture, Delaware NSF EPSCoR, the Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research (CBEAR), the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN), the Cape-May Lewes Ferry and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Videos of various workshop presentations are available. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Lisa Tossey This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Interdisciplinary UD team gears up for 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show

Interdisciplinary UD team gears up for 2017 Philadelphia Flower ShowBefore the University of Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players wrapped their God of Carnage and Waiting for Godot shows in fall 2016, Stefanie Hansen, associate professor in the theatre department, provided students involved with the 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show design project an opportunity to tour the sets and see what could be re-purposed. Aspects of those sets have now been transformed into an urban Amsterdam exhibit — the overall theme of this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show is “Holland Blooms” — that focuses on green infrastructure and storm water management and is outfitted with a green roof, a sidewalk rain garden, a green wall full of plants and permeable paving which helps cities cut down on storm water runoff. One end of the exhibit is a landscape architect studio and the other is a flower shop, with urban outdoor architecture features like planters, a bike lane and street lights making up the surrounding space. The end product — the seventh consecutive year a team from UD has had an exhibit featured in the show — will be on display for the duration of the flower show, March 11-19, in the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

Re-purposed sets

Hansen, who worked on the project last year as well, said that being able to re-purpose the theatre sets was a big benefit. “It was fun not only being able to keep some things out of the dumpster but also to know the scope of this could be useful with what we already had,” said Hansen. “I think this year we’re saving quite a bit of time and money on what we’re able to do so it can be bigger and more fleshed out than it might have been if we started from scratch.” Jules Bruck, associate professor of landscape design in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) who has been involved with the UD exhibit at the flower show since the beginning, said that having Hansen’s expertise in building lightweight theatre sets has been a huge help this year. “In previous years, all of our structures were meant to last in the outdoor landscape after the show, but they were heavy and difficult to move. The great thing about working with Stefanie is we were able to upcycle the lightweight props from the theatre productions. It makes more sense for us to use the theater sets for the show because we can move them easily and we don’t have to see the chiropractor for the rest of our life,” said Bruck.

Interdisciplinary team

The exhibit has been put together by an interdisciplinary group of UD students and faculty members. Some are working on the exhibit as part of a Design Process Practicum class taught by Bruck, others as members of the Design and Articulture (DART) student organization, and still others through the new landscape architecture major. Bruck said that one of the messages of this year’s exhibit is that all plants are welcome. “We’ve cultivated some common ‘weeds’ to put up on the roof to show the variety of plants that are part of the urban environment. We call them weeds – it’s a human construct. Many plants we consider weeds are a beneficial part of the environment. If it can grow in a crack in the sidewalk in the city, it’s a pretty tough nugget, and we need to rethink how we label it,” said Bruck. Anna Wik, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said that the roof will be planted with “things that are typically thought of as weeds mixed in with bulbs to give it this wild look. They’re mostly weedy grasses and we will be using some strawberries. Weeds are part of the urban environment and something that we have to know about.” Students in the Design Process Practicum class last year spent the first part of the class helping build the exhibit for 2016 and then spent the second portion of the class developing ideas that eventually became the design for this year’s flower show. Interdisciplinary UD team gears up for 2017 Philadelphia Flower ShowAustin Virdin, a senior in CANR, was part of the group whose design was chosen to represent UD this year and he said that it has been a rewarding experience watching the design come to life. He also said that having the assistance of Hansen has been a huge help. “We’ve been able to use pieces from past shows the theatre department has put on that have become the walls of the exhibit and a lot of the materials have been re-used from those shows, she’s been a great help. I know we would not have been able to have this year’s exhibit be as large of a structure if she wasn’t helping with the build,” said Virdin. Virdin said that the interdisciplinary aspect of the class is beneficial and helped to inform the design. “In my group that proposed this design concept, I worked with a psychology major and a computer science major, coming from different backgrounds and perspectives really makes the class more engaging in my opinion. I get a lot more out of the design process when there’s people who think and work differently than I do,” said Virdin. Tess Strayer, senior in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment and president of DART, said she is hoping that visitors to the exhibit take its green infrastructure messaging home with them. “I think it’s something we can incorporate into our lives on a daily basis. Green roofs aren’t hard and we just installed pervious paving at my home for my driveway. It’s little things that you can do around your house to make your home more sustainable, your life more ecofriendly,” said Strayer.

Bulb forcing

Wik has been working on the flower show for the first time in different capacities and has been involved in the bulb forcing — along with students Carin Prechtl and Serena Wingel, both juniors in CANR – and members of the Fischer Greenhouse staff, including Bill Bartz, greenhouse manager, and Rodney Dempsey, horticulture greenhouse supervisor. Wik said that they are using commonly forced bulbs in the exhibit, such as hyacinths, tulips and daffodils, as well as some less often used bulbs like allium and camassia, and that they decided to select plants that are ornamental but also provide ecosystem services, specifically those that would do well in a rain garden environments.

Landscape architecture studio

The landscape architecture studio is loosely modeled off of renowned landscape designer Piet Oudolf’s studio interior. Oudolf recently finalized a meadow design for the Delaware Botanic Gardens (DBG) at Pepper Creek near Dagsboro, Delaware. “We wanted a Dutch aesthetic, and then we realized we might be able to showcase some of his recent local work, as well,” said Bruck. Bruck reached out to Rodney Robinson, a UD alumnus and DBG board member who is with Robinson Anderson Summers Inc. (RAS), to ask if it would be possible to highlight the new project by including it as a prop in the architect studio. Sheryl Swed, the executive director of the DBG, responded to the request and said, “The opportunity to partner with Jules and talented students to highlight the exceptional master plan that RAS has just completed, to introduce the Delaware Botanic Gardens to the Philadelphia Flower Show audience and to feature Piet Oudolf’s DBG meadow design, is just the kind of synergy and mutual support that is the hallmark of the horticulture community.” For more about the Philadelphia Flower Show, including hours and ticket information, see the website. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.